How #EmployeeAdvocacy Revived A Hospital System

Social media fads are born every second and leave just as fast. You have brands that have no business being on snapchat trying to copy other brands that actually have an audience/reason to be there, you have brands trying to act as ‘cool’ as others by tapping into an influencer conversation with a tone of voice completely off base from their own, and then you have my favorite, the brands that hop onto every new network as soon as it comes out leaving a trail of washed up social media accounts instead aof being strong in social media on the networks their audience lives on. One rising star of social media that I guarantee you is not a fad, and something that every brand can utilize, is employee advocacy. The practice of setting up a tool that harbors pre-approved content your employees can safely share online is invaluable in the social space. Not only does it add to your social media resources (more on that below), but it also empowers your employees to feel like they have an investment in your brand.

While I was at a healthcare company I setup an employee advocacy program as a way to train employees on social media and tap into extra resources. While the setup took a lot of buy-in from executives and initial training, the results were astounding. In just a few months, only a few dozen employees amplified our content by millions and increased engagement by tens of thousands. Imagine what could happen with more.

I plan on writing more granular in the future about employee advocacy and how to set it up, sustain it, etc., but right now I want to focus on why your brand should be hopping on the bandwagon.

Here are the five biggest benefits of employee advocacy that I believe will make it a must-have:

Added Resources

This is an important one as many companies are cutting their social media staff as budget cuts come through. Some teams are being whittled down to one or two people that are responsible for running a Fortune 500 company’s social media. Employee advocacy creates resources in two ways. It adds content creators as employees are allowed to submit posts of their liking to the program, and it adds publishers by allowing employees to publish branded content to numerous personal social media networks. Suddenly, your team of two grows exponentially. Imagine how many more things your social media team would be able to do with more content creators and publishers on their side.

Executive Exposure

An employee advocacy program is a great way to bring your executives to the forefront. It enables social media shy executives to share content with one push of a button. During my time working on an employee advocacy program, I saw executives who never considered social media before suddenly joining others in posting content. With the right training and a tool that allowed content to come to them ready to go, nothing stood in their way of using social media to its utmost power. In fact, one executive who had little do with social media prior became a front-runner on the leadership boards which was amazing to watch.

Increased KPIs

We watched our metrics soar through the roof when we initiated an employee advocacy program. Our messages gained higher reach, engagement and clicks. It’s a no-brainer that adding more eyes to your content increases everything else, as well. This came in handy when selling the continuation of employee advocacy to executives. You can’t argue with numbers.

High-Value Marketing At A Low Cost

When you compare how much reach, engagement and clicks you get from an employee advocacy program to the cost of advertising on the social media networks, the difference is unbelievable. We could put $100K behind a buy and see more engagement from our program (which was way less than that). This is another point to keep in mind with budgets being cut for social media at many different companies.

Crisis Management

An employee advocacy program gives you the ability to create pre-approved social media messaging for a crisis and send it out right away for your advocates to share. It allows employees to advocate on your brand’s behalf and pour some water on fires before they burn your reputation. It’s a great way to control the messaging to make sure it is on-brand, while also reaching the right people to share it.

Whether you have a cut in your budget coming up, or you are under resourced, or you want to empower your employees → employee advocacy is the way to go. Have questions about what the next steps might be for you? I’m happy to answer in the comments below.

– Marji J. Sherman

Want to Reach Various Generations via Social? Stop Segmenting and Start Listening


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One of the most prominent questions on social right now is how to bridge the gap between the seniors, baby boomers and millennials. We’re all on it, right? Seniors are checking up on their grandchildren, baby boomers are reuniting with friends from high school and millennials are trendcasting. Or, at least, those are the stereotypes. Which leads us to the first problem with how companies perceive methods to reaching multiple generations on the same social platforms.

Here’s the deal → Yes, each generation has its own unique set of identifiers. Seniors are more conservative, baby boomers have the money to spend, millennials are more liberal, but also have less disposable income. Yet, for every unique identifier, each generation also shares the same traits. For example, everyone on social wants to be ‘social’.

Think of the cliche cocktail party often used to explain social media. You can have a cocktail party with an array of generations in attendance, and still have a passionate conversation. Just because a millennial is discussing the newest trends doesn’t mean a senior is disinterested and leaves the conversation. As the senior discusses healthcare and family, the millennial and baby boomer remain interested and engaged. Different generations add different perspectives to the conversation. Sure, some topics can be alienating, but, for the most part, every generation can find something relate to in most topics.

As a brand, you should be less concerned about segmenting the messages you are sending out, and more concerned with the responses you are getting in return. A lot can be learned from a baby boomer’s comment on a post, versus a senior’s. Not only can it help you guide future social posts, it can also give insight as to how products are being received by different generations.

The important thing to remember is we are all human, and most topics touch all generations, just in different ways. So do not limit your posts to only one generation. Instead sprinkle a variety of multi-generational posts throughout your content strategy, and see how surprised you are over what generations respond to what posts.

Millennials often times want to feel more adult and grown up, baby boomers want to feel young again and seniors want to relate to their grandchildren and remember their youth. If you feed only senior-related posts to seniors, they are going to feel stereotyped. So stop freaking out about how to reach segmented generations, and start understanding that a stellar post is one that not only relates to your brand and is relevant to online conversations, but also one that every generation can relate to on some level.

-Marji J. Sherman

10 Ways To Be A More Authentic, Effective Digital + Social Media Strategist

I almost deleted my Facebook this week (still might), which is a pretty big play for someone who makes her living off of creating strategies for networks like, you guessed it, Facebook. It wasn’t because of the popular politics bantering, but rather because social  media has created such a fake environment where it seems people are condemned for being themselves while others are applauded for spewing out incredibly fake bullshit.

In fact, I find myself often times wanting to put a prettier filter on my own life. The fact is, life is messy and it does not fit within a square with pretty filters. It fits in coffee-stained pieces of torn paper and in old cigar boxes with tiny clasps that lock to keep safe every relic you hold dear. Yes, sometimes it does fit in the nice polaroid digital shot on Instagram, but it also lives on offline as well.

And that’s not something we only forget as everyday people living our lives, but also as strategists writing social media strategies for brands. We want so badly for something to go viral, or for a client to see a 30-second video and applaud us on how well it will work natively on their Twitter account. We cut important words out to make sure that the story is told, rather than to make sure that the right story is told. I don’t care how good of strategist you are, you have, more than once, had to sacrifice an authentic, raw piece of content in order to fit it into the pretty little box of social media. Suddenly, it’s a polished, commercial-sounding clip rather than the raw, honest, shaky video you were working with in the beginning. While there is a place for the polished, there is also a place where you have to ask yourself whether the bells and whistles are more important than the real story.

It’s a question we often side with the bells and whistles on because that’s what we are told to do by others, instead of doing our jobs as strategists and seeing if that type of content actually fits into the strategy of the brand and appeals to its prospective consumers. In essence, we are taking our own strategy hat off in order to put on a diplomatic filter.

I’ve found myself in a few conversations in my career where I have had to stand up for strategies that are true to the brand when everyone else just wants to do what is ‘trendy’. Here’s a handy acronym I use to gut-check myself and my team when the social media strategy seems to be floating farther from the brand:

 

Show Them

I’ve won many social media discussions by simply pulling an ad hoc report before the meeting that confidently supports my point. If someone wants to do something ‘catchy’ that is off-brand, I’ll pull examples of ‘catchy’ moments that tanked popular brands on social media. I’ll also come prepared with a solution of something we can do in lieu of the trendy idea that stays closer to the brand voice.

On the same token, if I want to do something more edgy that still fits within the brand, I’ll show examples of other brands kicking ass with the type of content I want to create.

 

Test Everything

Sometimes you don’t know what your audience will latch onto. Especially in the beginning of writing a strategy, it’s important to throw some stuff out there and see what sticks. Now, don’t go throw something out there that is completely off-brand and unrelatable to your target audience. Spend some time getting to know your audience and then find some creative ways to reach them on social media and see which way garners the most engagement.

 

Research, Research, Research

My background is in research and I would not be half the strategist I am without everything I learned from the researcher’s point of view. Know who you are targeting on social media inside-out. Live and breathe their lives until you almost could be one of them. You will never be able to write, or defend, an effective strategy without being best friends with the people on the other side of the conversation.

 

Apologize Later

In my first job ever I had a coworker tell me that we needed to just move forward with our project, and apologize later if it ended up getting us in hot water. In social media, it’s often difficult to see the impact of a strategy until it is fully implemented. Until you throw it in front of humanity, you cannot be 100 percent sure what is going to happen. As strategists we get to a place where we can be nearly 99 percent sure, while some others are still at the 40 percent level. When that happens, sometimes you just have to go for it in order to prove that it is a good idea.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you completely highjack your company’s Twitter handle and go rogue. I’m suggesting that you implement a smart strategy if you have the room to, but also be prepared to have some tough conversations if it doesn’t go as planned.

 

Trust Your Gut

This would be absolutely listed as #1 if I wasn’t following an acronym here. As a strategist, you HAVE to trust your gut and you have to know that you know social media and your brand better than yourself. You are constantly in a changing environment where you have to make quick decisions with, often times, little support. You have to know you are doing the right thing and doing it well so you can defend it and produce awesome social media content.

 

Explore

I mean this in two-ways. Explore other brands to get a better idea of what others are doing, but also explore your consumers’ social media lives. Get to know what they are talking about and what kind of content they are sharing. Sometimes consumers are your best examples when you are trying to sell authentic, on-brand content to another team. You can’t quite argue with the consumer themselves.

 

Give More Than You Take

Once you’re in a place where you’re learning valuable insights, share them with other strategists in your field. Don’t think that in order to be a great strategist you have to hold all of your strategies secret. Be open and honest about what you are doing, and other strategists will be the same with you. Other strategists can be your most valuable asset. They are also great sounding boards when you’re wondering if a strategy is going to come across as inauthentic.

 

Innovate

Social media is still so young that there is plenty of room to innovate and find new ways of using it. It’s important that you find the right way for your brand to use it, and it might not be the popular way everyone else is using it. I work for a very regulated industry and am constantly looking for innovative ways to reach patients, while also adhering to tons of regulations on social media. It’s challenging, but also rewarding when you’re able to create a new way of communicating and engaging on social.

 

Stay True

This is a tricky one. You have to stay true to your brand, your consumers and yourself as a strategist. If you don’t stay true the brand, you will come across disjointed and out-of-place on social media. If you don’t stay true to the consumers, well, you’ll lose them. If you don’t stay true to yourself, it will be difficult to trust your gut when making quick, important decisions that the whole world can see.

 

Take It With You

Take every strategy you write with you as you go onto other opportunities, and constantly revisit them. It will show you how far you’ve come while providing you a jumping off start as you dive into new strategies. Remember, you always own a piece of the strategies you write and that’s something to be proud of.

 

So, at the end of the day, I probably won’t delete my Facebook because that will do nothing to subdue the fakeness. It would only remove one more authentic voice from the network. Hopefully, though, I can use my pet peeve of the increased filtered life to write even more authentic strategies that truly emulate the brands I work with. Who’s with me?

 

– Marji J. Sherman

10 Ways For Your Brand To Grow Up On Social Media

Gone are the days of effortlessly tapping into every third-party conversation with some quip about your brand and calling it a social media strategy. As digital has evolved, social media has been forced to grow up right along with it. With social media networks focusing on quality content and cracking down on audience development scams, brands that have mastered the art of growing their social media along with the changing digital atmosphere are winning. If you are still stuck in the OG days of sweepstakes, contests, click-bait and tapping into every hashtag you see on social media, no fear. Here are some steps to help you grow your social media strategy into the effective strategy it deserves to be:  

Write Branding Guidelines

Now, depending on where you sit in the company, this work might actually fall into another team and quite possibly could already be done for you. However, you will be unable to write a strong strategy without having the basic brand guidelines in place for your company. I’ve worked for some companies where it has been my role to write the brand mission statement and decide on the colors for the logo and messaging we are allowed to use. I’ve been with other companies where this work falls completely into a separate marketing team, and my job is to tweak the guidelines for social media. Bottom line >> You need to know your brand’s mission statement, values, goals, logo, and colors before you can go any further.

Get Familiar With BOTH Types Of Hashtags And Their Value

Hashtags are not as valuable as they once were in the social media world, but that does not mean they are obsolete. Instead of only falling into third-party hashtags and forcing your brand to have something clever to say where it might not have something to clever to say (think #ThrowbackThursday, #FlashbackFriday, #TuesdayThoughts), be picky about which of these actually applies to your brand. Even if you are just tapping into one of these per week, you are solid. You do not have to be in every conversation. It’s better to be in a relevant conversation once a week, than trying to stretch your brand into every conversation every day. Also start thinking about using hashtags to brand your company, rather than always having to tap into them for brand awareness. Create hashtags no one else is using and start using them on a regular basis wherever you can. This will help people identify with your brand and also tie in their conversations to the overall social media chatter around your brand.

Develop Solid Content Pillars And Never Stray Away From Them

This is critical to having a grown-up social media strategy. Instead of thinking how your brand can morph into any and every conversation already happening on social media, you need to be thinking about a few relevant conversations happening on social media where your brand can have a major impact. I usually recommend sticking to only four major content pillars that you can really focus in on. If you’re a non-profit, advocacy might be one of your content pillars to ensure that you are always advocating for others with your content. If you’re a lifestyle brand, inspiration might be one of your content pillars, so you are always tapping into conversations that inspire your consumers to live a certain kind of lifestyle.

Once you’ve landed on your four pillars, it’s important to never stray from them. Take every piece of content and measure it up against the pillars. If it can’t fall into one or two of them, it should not be published on your social media channels. Being this strategic can also help if you are working for a large brand and have a lot of cooks in the kitchen. When you know who you are as a brand, you can easily say something is off-brand and move on to the next piece of content.

Rethink Content

In my first social media job, I could easily pull a meme from the internet, post it with limited copy and have a thousand likes by that afternoon. Granted, I was dealing with a bunch of bodybuilding meatheads as my target audience, but I have a feeling memes would not even cut it with that bunch today. Consumers are looking for more sophisticated content that adds value, as they have also been growing up with digital and social over the past few years. I don’t care who your brand is; you absolutely have to add some sort of value to your consumers’ lives for them to be interested in your content. Add a column to your social media calendar that includes a goal for each post. This will help you make sure that every single piece of content that is going out on social is not only providing value not only to your consumers but also to your brand.

Rethink Metrics

Straying away from vanity metrics (likes/followers) has been happening for a while. Followers mean nothing in this pay-for-play universe and meaningful engagement is everything. I even go as far as adding a column to the social media calendar for what success will look like for every post. For example, if it’s asking a question in the copy, that post will be most successful if there are a lot of comments at the end of its run. If it’s asking people to apply for something, that post is successful if a certain amount of applications can be directly linked to it. While metrics reports at the beginning of my career touted an increase in followers each month, today they pull apart the five top posts on each network and why each one was successful on its own. Not only does this help inform future posts, but it also reinforces the value of engagement.

Avoid Contests And Surprise And Delights AT ALL COSTS

Even at the beginning of the social media craze, it was obvious contests did not always attract the most valuable consumers. I had an endless budget at my first job in social to run flashy contests. We would fly people to meet the most famous bodybuilders and effortlessly give them a year’s supply of all of our products. We quickly noticed a drop off in fans and followers less than a week after each contest ended. The same goes for surprise and delights. When you offer free loot, you attract people who just want free loot, rather than loyal consumers who are willing to pay for your product. Instead of falling into the giving-everything-away-for-free trap, think of other ways you can add value to your consumers’ lives while also showing them why they need to purchase your products/services.

Invest In A Social Media Tool

You are living in the dark ages if you think you can still get by using the ‘free’ version of any tool. Software companies are smart, and they have reserved the functions you need for a sophisticated strategy for the paid version. Not only do you need a publishing function, but you also need a strong listening and metrics function. Listening will help you stay on top of conversations happening around your industry and metrics will help you make sure your content is staying on-strategy and help you tweak your strategy if certain content is not resonating with your audience.

Include Your Employees

Employee advocacy is not just a hot trend in the social media space; it is here to stay. Employees are the single most effective marketing tool you have in your belt. Think about ways you can start incorporating your employees into your social media strategy. Whether it’s highlighting an employee a month on social media, or encouraging employees to share your brand’s social media content, employees help with the friend-to-friend recommendation factor that is so powerful in consumers’ purchasing decisions. For more on employee advocacy programs, check out this post: How To Supercharge Content Creation Via #EmployeeAdvocacy.

You Need To Think Larger Than Social Media

While my original social media strategies could fit onto a couple of pages, they now take up full decks. Instead of narrowly focusing on how to grow followers and engage them, I am also thinking about what customer service needs to look like on social, what we need to be listening for, and responding to on social media and what type of content strategically aligns with the brand and social. This means my strategies now include a baked-in customer service strategy, listening strategy, response strategy, and content strategy. Any arm of the brand that interacts with social media needs its own strategy of what the relationship will look like.

Know Social Media Is No Longer A One-(Wo)man Show

You can imagine with all of the strategic work that now goes into an effective social media plan; it is no longer something that can be done by one person right out of college. As social media has grown up, it requires a larger team that includes an experienced strategist at the helm. As the strategist is figuring out why, when, where, and how to engage in social media, someone else needs to be responding to customer service requests online. On top of that, a third person should be monitoring and listening every day for negative customer responses, as well as opportunities to engage in third-party conversations. This list can go on and on depending on how larger your brand is.

It’s time to revisit social media and grow up with the times. With more social media savvy consumers that see-through gimmicks and unauthentic content, it’s imperative to put more thought, time, and resources into creating an impactful social media strategy. The one (wo)man, follow-the-leader show just won’t cut it anymore.

– Marji J. Sherman

5 #SocialMedia Mistakes To Avoid Making

I’m just gonna say it, most of us are distracted right now. Between BLM and #COVID19, it’s been a crazy few months and it can be hard to pay attention to details as we would have before. So I made a list of some social media mistakes you should SUPER pay attention to NOT MAKING during this messy time. Here they are:

 

Automating Everything

The days of scheduling everything in HootSuite and thinking you are done with content are over. Consumers are onto automation, and they do not like it one bit. They will be expecting more personalized interactions with your brand. They want to see their name on emails, in videos, in posts. You will need to think more creatively about how to create customized interactions with consumers, especially if you are a larger brand. It’s not going to be easy, but it will be effective in building a loyal relationship with your fans.

 

Being On Every Hip New Social Media Network

I had a disgruntled conversation with a friend this week about why one of the brands I do social for is not on Snapchat. I told him that Snapchat was not at all the place for the brand, so it was better that we focus in on doing other networks well, rather than spread ourselves too thin. He made a snide comment about how every social media manager he knows uses every single social media network for their brand. I responded by saying that’s the difference between being a social media manager and a good social media manager. I completely stand by that statement.

Not every single network is going to be effective for every single brand. Each network has a personality and target audience of its own. Do some research and find out which networks your audience uses most, and devote time to creating an incredible social media presence on those networks. It’s better to do a few networks outstandingly well, rather than all of the networks so-so.

Another thing to think about here is resourcing. One of the main reasons I refuse to use a network like Snapchat for brands it doesn’t resonate with is due to how much time producing content and publishing it would take to keep a Snapchat account active, when maybe a handful of relevant people would find it interesting. I’d rather have those resources focused on the networks performing well for us.

 

Thinking Employee Advocacy Is An Option

Staying along the same lines of consumers seeing through automation, they also are seeing through brands in general. They are shifting significantly to relying on what their friends are saying, as brands are becoming less trusted in the social media space. You have to provide your employees with a way to speak about the company they work for on social media for two reasons >> they are going to speak about who they work for anyway, so this provides you with a way to control the message AND consumers trust friends more than brands. I highly recommend setting up a demo with Dynamic Signal to start thinking about how employee advocacy can help shape your brand.

 

Discussing Politics

Ah! I feel like I am going to get some nasty comments just for this one paragraph alone! Brands have inserted themselves into political conversations like never before this year. For some brands, it’s helped lift them to new social media heights. For other brands, it has caused boycotts of their products, if not worse. Unless you are a brand whose work is involved in politics, you should be keeping your mouth shut. This is one instance where you need to firmly remember that you are a brand, not a person, on social media. So act like one. If you question whether you are a brand that should be discussing politics on social, check out this post I wrote: Should Your Brand Be Discussing News & Politics On Social Media?.

 

Dissing Competitors

This has always been a no-no on social media, but there seems to be a new environment for outright going after competitors on social media. This is so not cool, so just stop it. Not only does this make your brand look petty instead of powerful, it also isolates at least a bit of your audience. While you are trying to come across as funny or hard-hitting, you are only putting yourself in a bad light and making people question the validity of your product if you feel the need to use this type of marketing.

 

– Marji J. Sherman

 

10 Tips For Writing A Content Marketing Strategy

Being primarily a creative at heart, content strategies have always been my favorite strategies to write. Before paid social media existed (I know, I’m old), a brand’s content had to be stellar or it was not going anywhere. I feel blessed that I started out my social media career right when brands were allowed to have Facebook pages because I learned social media through the eyes of impactful, effective content. Within minutes I knew whether a post was going to succeed or not and I could adjust the strategy to reflect poorly performing posts and not make the same mistake twice. I knew my audience—I became my audience. I searched for anything bodybuilders were interested in, I interviewed bodybuilders, I looked at what other popular bodybuilding brands were doing. All so I could create content that didn’t miss a beat with our audience. Granted, brands are still doing all of this today, but when your performance is dependent on your content and SOLELY your content (remember—no paying for it to go to the target audience, no suffocation by the pay-to-play model—completely organic content that went on every newsfeed of your fans), it is what you live and breathe for.

So it irks me today when I see brands settle for any type of content just as long as they have content going 24/7 on their social and digital channels. Why on earth are some brands putting millions of ad spend behind creative that a kindergartener could do? If the content is not on point, it doesn’t matter how much money you put behind it, it won’t perform.

Here is my starting guide for a content marketing strategy:

Goals

Duh. All strategies should begin with goals and end with how those goals will be measured. Do you want more clicks to other pages from your homepage? Do you want to attract a different audience than you’ve been attracting? Do you want to gain more leads, more conversions? I’ve worked with clients who want th conversion at the end of the day—nothing else matters. I have also worked with clients who have more work than they can handle but they want to use the digital space to enhance their reputation in their industry. There are many different ways to use content marketing to achieve your business goals, so spend some time thinking about what goals might be best for your brand. What can content marketing do for you?

Research

What are other brands doing well in terms of content? What statistics can you find that support content marketing? What types of content are other brands finding success with? Research will give you a huge advantage as you dive deeper into your strategy.

You also should research your target audience in a way you never have before. Live and breathe your audience. What are they talking about? What content does it look like they are engaging most with? What platforms are they most likely to be on? If your goal is conversions—what can you find about which type of content drives the most conversions?

Ecosystem

SO IMPORTANT. I once read a content marketing strategy that did not reference what channels the content would be published on. Like, what?! A content strategy should always show exactly where the content is going to go and why it’s going there. There should also be examples of what the same piece of content would look like on your website versus display ads versus social media networks.

Content Mix

Your initial research will largely influence your content mix. I always use a pie chart for this and show how many videos versus still images versus GIFs versus text-only versus image+text, etc. will be a part of that pie. With how things have been trending over the past couple of years, I usually give most of the pie to video. This is the hardest part of the pie to fulfill, though, because creating a video is the hardest and most expensive type of content to create.

Brand Guide

Or, a brand strategy! Brand guides are something I always include in branding and content marketing strategies. They are so useful and help to push back on reviewers. You can simply open the brand guide and show that the green color is part of the approved colors. Things to think about here— Where does the logo appear on images? On videos? How many different logos can be used on creative? What will the opening and ending cards look like on videos? What filters, if any, can be used? What type of images should be used? What font? What colors?

Content Examples

I am obsessed with the free mock-up tool that AdParlor offers and I use it for every single strategy I write across the board. It helps clients see exactly what their content would look like, instead of relying on their imagination. I’ve sold many strategies by having examples. Remember, the people you have to sell this strategy to are most likely not as much of an expert as you are in the marketing space. But once you can show them what something would look like, they are able to understand better what you are trying to do.

Split Test Schedule

This is A MUST when it comes to a content strategy. You will need to test Copy A against Copy B, then you will need to test Image A against Image B. Doing this over and over again will help you refine your content strategy and provide you with your own set of research showing what your target audience does and does not respond to.

Infrastructure

Oh, yes. It’s wonderful to plan a comprehensive content marketing strategy, but who is going to create all of this content? Who’s going to design the content? Who owns the content editorial calendar for the brand? If you already have a creative team, get them on board very early on as you are crafting your strategy. You want them to feel involved and like they have a seat at the table. If you work with a creative agency, same thing— get them on board early because they might have some helpful tips for you. If you don’t have either, start selling to your executive team that you will need support to execute the strategy. Also, learn Canva. It is a lifesaver for under-resourced teams.

One other very important thing to think about when it comes to creating content is who needs to review the content. Is it your boss? Is it your boss and your CEO? Does the legal team need to review it? What about compliance? Whoever is reviewing the content needs to be brought in the minute you start writing your strategy because you want them to feel like they have a voice and they might see something in your strategy that legally you would never be able to do on digital or social. You also want to get a grasp on how far in advance you will have to get approvals and be prepared to push back and follow-up with people who are reviewers. They have other jobs to do and reviewing content can often get lost in the shuffle.

Content Library

Where will the content be housed? Think about this one A LOT and be sure to consult with in-house counsel in case your content needs to be on a very secure database. The dream is that the content will be in a place where all digital, social, print teams can access the content easily. Just make sure that you are able to turn on editing settings because you do not want everyone to have the capability to change content.

Measurement

I studied communications research in college and my first job was in the research space, so I am all about measurement. I would have not gotten this far in my career without being able to prove the success of digital and social media via measurements. Many times my role was to sell social and digital internally, and I always had a great report by my side when I went into meetings with executives. Measurement is important for content marketing because it helps identify what imagery and copy your target audience is responding to. You can quickly tweak creative based on nearly immediate feedback. Things to think about here include what type of content is performing best? Which imagery gets you closest to your goal? What goal are you short of reaching with your strategy? How can you tweak your strategy to get closer to achieving that goal?

I would also tag all content with content type, the theme of content, and the goal you think the content will most align with from the strategy. It sounds tedious, but it is a great exercise to ensure you are staying on-strategy with the content and aligning with your content mix.

Content costs A TON of money and requires even more resources, but it is WORTH it. You will see for yourself once you start testing images and copy and placement. There will undoubtedly be a winner and it’s not always the one that you guessed! Content is important now more than ever as people become more and more flooded with it everywhere. You need content that is going to grab your audience’s attention and keep it. Having a solid content strategy is a good start for that!

– Marji J. Sherman

7 Tips For An Under-Resourced #SocialMedia Team

As social media becomes a necessity for brands and grows, the teams don’t always grow with the demands. Pretty much every professional I know in the social media industry could use more staff but are doing what they can with the teams they’ve been given. After all, we’ve all been where we have had NO staff and have been doing everything from creating images to writing copy to publishing. I’m guessing a lot of people reading this still are one-man shows. To you guys, kudos.

Social media takes a hell of a lot of work, and a great deal of it happens after hours. This means not only are teams under-staffed, but they are also are working unusually long hours trying to cover all hours of community management. This leads to quick burnouts and some brands are taking notice, realizing they are losing social media people before they even have them.

Being a member of a severely under-resourced social media team once or twice in my life, I’ve learned some tips that can be huge time savers. Here are a few that I think could help you:

Introduce Yourself To Canva

One of my jobs required a team of two to respond to real-time news as it was happening. This meant we needed to create a Facebook image, Twitter image, Facebook copy, Twitter copy, CEO’s Twitter copy, and a web banner less than 15 minutes after a news story broke. And, as we all know, most news stories do not break during business hours. This meant we were having to do all of this on the go, often at 11 PM on a Saturday night outside of whatever bar we were at with our friends (NOT recommended.) And we did it! Thanks to the beautiful wonderful tool that is Canva. Even on our iPhones, we were able to quickly drop copy into a template and have it out the door in a matter of minutes, sized for everywhere it could possibly be published. Go get Canva. Now.

Force Yourself To Take Breaks

This is a hard one for me because I like to work through something until it is finished, or it’s always on the back of my mind, and I never can relax. This way of thinking nearly burned me out my first couple of years in social media because social media is ALWAYS ON. There is no good time to take a break! There are no good stopping points! So, I finally had a boss who forced me to take breaks and take walks around our building. I thought he was nuts until I started thinking more clearly and getting even more done in a day by hitting the pause button for a moment. Take breaks, and you will not suffer. I promise.

Create A Threshold Guide

These have saved my butt so many times. One of the biggest time suckers for social media pros is community management. It takes time (and patience) to answer every consumer out there, especially the mean, nasty ones. Create a guide that establishes when a problem has hit a level that you need to respond to it, and include what type of people you want to be responding to on social media. This will cut down the volume of consumers that you need to respond to. If a consumer has two followers and his tweet is bashing your brand, chances are he created that account just to bash your brand, and by responding to it, you will only be drawing more attention to the complaint. A threshold guide is also helpful when you need to defend why or why not you responded to certain consumers. It’s awesome to have it all right there in writing.

Create A Response Grid

Going with the theme of the previous tip, community management takes A TON of time. Create a grid with the most frequently asked questions you receive on social media, and approved answers from your PR and/or customer service team. This way, you can just reference the guide instead of always having to go back and forth with others. This is also helpful if you ever need someone to fill in for you. They will have a quick resource for the questions they are most likely to receive while you are out. 

Write A Strategy

Duh, right? I cannot say enough that any brand on social media absolutely has to have a social media strategy. Under-resourced teams especially should have one. Strategies are helpful in navigating internal conversations about what should/should not be posted on social media. This helps you to avoid putting a lot of work behind content that doesn’t make sense for your brand and saves you a lot of heated conversations. Instead of having to argue about who is right, you can simply reference the strategy and see if suggested content aligns with it. 

Document Your Work

I encourage my team (and myself) to keep track of every little thing they (we) work on. This helps show just how much work actually goes into effective social media. When working with brands unfamiliar with social media, documenting is incredibly important. Since they do not have an established team already, they most likely are unaware of each piece of work that goes into creating a calendar, posts, publishing and community managing. These documents can be incredibly valuable when having conversations about future resourcing needs.

Repurpose Content

It seems like common sense, but a lot of brands are afraid to do this because they think their audience will become fatigued with their content. So not true. With how social media networks continue to lessen the amount of branded content consumers see, repurposed content is a must. Turn a blog post into five different social media posts and images, create an evergreen folder with content that you could reuse year-round and pull from it when you need a quick piece of content, make sure you have a photographer at a video shoot so you can have stills as well to use in the future. Thinking of how far you can use content will save your life as a social media pro.

 

These are just seven things I have found to be helpful when managing a large workload with a small staff in social media. I hope a few of these will be helpful for you too! 

– Marji J. Sherman

It’s A Social Responsibility For Brands To Rethink #SocialMedia During #COVID19

Hey, hey— it’s been a while. Outside of coaching and helping clients manage their digital marketing during this pandemic, I created a nonprofit called #MyCovidStory that is a hub for raw stories, resources, and connections during COVID-19. More on that in a different post!

Today we are talking about what to do with those lovely little social media plans and channels while the world is engulfed by a pandemic. My husband and I found ourselves in an unusual place last night of watching a show AS IT WAS AIRING (I know!!) which meant we had to sit through every single commercial break— and there were A LOT. He is used to me being highly critical of commercials, online ads, direct mail pieces we received. He has learned by now that I am trained to make things better and, according to him, that means making pretty much everything better! Haha.

As we were watching the commercials, we found ourselves either wholeheartedly depressed by commercials geared towards the pandemic or completely outraged by how tone-deaf some brands are right now. Like, when am I going to host a party anytime soon where I need new serving dishes??! When am I ever going to see that many people in a park with their dogs anytime soon?

Life is weird. I think I realized just how weird it was when my therapist ended one of our recent calls with, “No one knows right now how people should cope with this disaster because we’ve never encountered one like this before.” Well…THANK YOU VERY MUCH for inducing panic attacks.

With life being weird, a different approach needs to be taken when it comes to social media. It seems like every time the little bugger is going to be engulfed into a larger digital media umbrella, something happens that brings it right back into the spotlight. And there you are, realizing that you never prepped that crisis strategy you were going to last year, or that your crisis strategy doesn’t even come close to handling something like coronavirus. So here I am 🙂

The number one thing to do when a crisis is realized, is press PAUSE on anything and everything scheduled do go out. Do not press the PLAY button until you have reviewed every single piece of content you have scheduled and have made sure that none of it sounds tone-deaf or insulting against the backdrop of the crisis. I am praying that anyone reading this blog post already has done that for their brand— like two months ago. What’s unique about coronavirus is it is lasting longer and is a bit more unpredictable than other crises, especially since we’ve never had a coronavirus pandemic before. This means that each day the news about the virus, places that are opened versus closed, people’s emotions, EVERYTHING changes. Which means a general crisis plan will most likely not fit this baby.

As a social media manager, it is your responsibility to your company to be out in front of any industry and coronavirus news before your C-suite wakes up in the morning. This means convincing them to invest in a listening platform or manually doing your listening research across all social media platforms and major news networks. I’ve had to do it manually before, and it sucks, but it is surely accurate! I recommend sending a daily digest every morning to your executive team with a pulse of social media so far for the day. I would also include if there are topics that your brand can chime in on, or include a recommendation that the brand is silent for the day. That last part can be one of the hardest jobs ever of anyone in social media. Convincing a CEO that she should not go let her thoughts loose on Twitter, or send a tone-deaf message out on her LinkedIn, can seem like a fight you have no chance of winning. But you have to try. It is quite literally your job to tell your company what is best for social media. Be proud of that and have tough conversations you are definitely going to have to need during this time.

A risk on the other end of sounding tone-deaf is sounding too empathetic and sad to sell it. It’s easy to look at a crisis and say, “Hey! If we just make people sad enough, they will have a strong emotional connection to our brand when this is all over.” I hope that as you read that thought, you already can think of numerous things wrong with thinking that way. Living in a time of authenticity and transparency, which has only gotten more so since COVID, it is crucial to know where your brand is and to keep it in its lane. Because if your brand slides out of its lane with an emotional video, it could rub viewers the wrong way. People want the truth (which, unfortunately, is sad right now), but they don’t want to be made sad by some company they barely have a relationship with.

If you can work with your team and identify places where your brand is directly influenced by or can directly influence the pandemic, then you should work on creating content that speaks to those influences. But you should keep your exact tone of voice you have always used on social media and tie the story into the same video and image templates that you use as a brand. You will know as you are putting your brand logo and treatment on a social media visual whether or not it feels right for the brand to be sharing the content. If you get a feeling that something seems wrong, STOP and speak with your direct manager. It is better to be too safe with communications during a crisis than be too much. You, as the social media manager, have the most reliable seat in the house as to how people are going to respond. You are able to see realtime responses, trends, and discussions. If something about wrapping up what is happening in your brand bow doesn’t seem quite right, do everything you can to not publish that content.

If you cannot find places where you are directly influenced by or can directly influence, then you need to tread very lightly through the next few months. The other odd thing about coronavirus is that it is affecting the whole world, which means it is at least affecting your company from an employee standpoint, if not from a production standpoint. This leads to an incredibly gray area of whether or not its the right time for you to continue your social media strategy. Does COVID affect your team and consumers so much that you feel you need to be supporting them somehow right now? Make donations and capture those as your social media content. Don’t just sit there and post social content without taking action to actually help.

During one of my first jobs, my mom was just getting her port taken out where she received chemo for her breast cancer— fortunately she’s fine now! But we weren’t sure what the future held at that time and I was a few months into my first social media job at an international sports nutrition company. I told a few people just how important breast cancer awareness was to me, and I had hoped that we could do some sort of educational series in October to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but there were just no parallels with the brand. Four of the five brands were geared towards males and the small sliver of the female brand they owned was all about relaxation and not talking about things like “cancer”. News of my disappointment got all the way up to the President of the company, so he called me into his office one day. He said that he had heard about my mom and couldn’t imagine what I was feeling and that he wanted to donate $65,000 to breast cancer awareness and encourage fans to donate collectively as much. As I teared up, he didn’t even let me respond before telling me to go get to work on the campaign. Of course, it shared that our office had a personal connection to breast cancer, and that was an important enough reason for our company to donate. I don’t know if I have ever felt so blessed at work as I did that day.

That is one example of how companies who are industries that do not have essential workers right now can still give back and have a conversation about it on their social media channels. One strong recommendation I have is to rework your strategy for the rest of 2020 because the sentiment and what people are discussing across social media will continue to change dramatically and be tied to coronavirus.

But you still need to make money, and you still work for a brand. Yes, I get it. We are ALL feeling that right now, honey! But if you take the wrong step, or your step is just a little off of where your footprint needs to be, you could lose your entire business via a marketing and/or social media snafu right now. That’s how sensitive and in-tune people are. You need to measure the risk against the reward every single day this virus presses on. Do you want a solid brand with a good reputation when it goes away? Or do you want to prematurely kill it during the virus because you just couldn’t press pause for a second?

The other polar opposite type of ad we saw last night were ads that seemed to last HOURS and went on and on showing families disconnected from each other, A TON of tears, hospital beds, etc., with a “we’re in this together” in some form from nearly every advertiser. UM, what?! First off, a lot of us are watching television to escape and get some light in our lives right now. So many people are struggling with depression and anxiety on a much deeper level than they ever have during this time of isolation. They don’t need to turn on the TV to see a three-minute ad that has them in tears. They can watch the news for that.

If you have essential workers and/or are in an industry that is essential and directly needed during this pandemic, YES— you should def advertise. Let’s rethink what that means right now. Let’s rethink where your audience is and what their hobbies are right now like you would before any advertising campaign. Most likely, they are quarantined and isolated. Many of them don’t have anyone cuddling up on the couch with them. Some can barely hear the TV because their children are so full of energy from being home 24/7. A much higher percentage is HIGHLY stressed out about their finances, jobs, how are they getting food next week? What if they can’t get their meds in a month?

Now, if you “update” your target audience to a generation living through this pandemic, some not so lucky, do you want to share a piece of content that will bring them even close to that whiskey bottle, or closer to dangerous thoughts? NO. Please don’t. Please use some common sense here. If you are going to advertise on social media (or any media during this time), try to find a way you can share your message while also providing some hope and light at the end of the tunnel. It’s great all those companies from the depressing ads last night are with us but do we really want to bring more sad, depressed, anxiety-ridden friends into our home? NO. Those are people we would rather not be in this together with.

We need heroes, heroines, examples of strength being redefined, hopeful messages to encourage us to stay isolated. We need light, the brightest light, during this darkest time.

Think about that as you approach your social media plan over the next few months. See if there are opportunities for your brand to become more vulnerable and respond to consumers reaching out to you in heartfelt ways, show the world what your brand looks like during isolation, supply help numbers, and connect those who need help with those who can provide it. Donate.

Social media has transformed from a place that was slowly losing momentum and rarely having honest conversations anymore, to a media that the world cannot live without since it is providing hopeful stories from around the world, CDC updates, ways to find therapists during this time, etc. Social media is no longer a byline, but a lifeline.

Treat it as such.

– Marji J. Sherman

How To Get Your C-Suite On Social Media

It doesn’t matter who the company is or what they sell, an emerging issue with their social media seems to be getting the C-Suite to use social media. This is a natural issue. Many executives are usually more seasoned, thus not growing up in the generation that’s been exposed constantly to social media. They also have very little time on their hands. However, just because you receive initial push back on getting your C-Suite to be more socially active, does not mean that you should accept ‘no’ for an answer. Here are some tips that have worked for me in organizations as we not only sell the value of social media to the organization to executives but also bring home the importance of the executive themselves having an active social media presence:  

Show Value

I know I am singing an old song, but showing someone the value of social media is something that we will always need to be prepared to do as social media professionals. When approaching executives, it is particularly important to show them the value of social media for them. Explain to them that having a presence online will help them build brand equity in themselves, as well as in the company. Provide examples of missed opportunities where the executives could have joined an important industry conversation, or spoken up in a popular conversation about your company online. This will help to see why this isn’t just something your team wants, it’s something your team needs.

 

Get Competitive

Everyone likes a little healthy competition. Pull together some examples of other CEOs in your industry that are successfully using social media. Illustrate how their effective use of social media has led to earned PR for themselves and their company. Once you show your executives that others just like them are taking advantage of the social space, they will have a hard time giving you a valid excuse as to why they cannot be on it.

 

Make It As Easy As Possible

Think of absolutely everything you can do to make it the least amount of work for your executives. Put yourself in their shoes and think of what you would be willing to do with not enough time and a huge amount of important decisions weighing on your shoulders at every moment. Offer to do everything from setting up the account to writing ghost tweets for them to approve that you can then send out. They will have a much different feeling about their social media presence if they realize it will not take the incredible amount of time they fear it will.

 

Build Trust

Now, to make the latter step work you will have to either have the opportunity to build trust with your executive team, or you will have to find someone who has already established trust with them and work through them. Take the time to get to know your executive’s tone of voice and interests before recommending that you write ghost messaging for them. Show them that you know who they are as a professional and that they can trust you to send everything they want to approve up for approval. I recommend even going to your initial meeting with your executives prepared with a doc of pre-written ghost tweets to show them that you can handle this.

 

Follow-Through

This is where I see the majority of the mistakes happening. The social team gets the executives super pumped about getting on social media, and then once they are there and seem to be doing well, they move on to other initiatives. Yes, it’s okay to give executives a little breathing room once they seem to have a handle on things, but your job to encourage them to stay active and present on social media will never end. Even if your executives become completely social media savvy and take control of their accounts, forward them some useful articles to share now and then to keep the momentum going.

 

Often, in all situations, people do not want to be on social media because they do not understand it and fear what might be shared. However, when they can see the value of social media through concrete examples and know that you will be there to help them, the fear dissipates.

 

Have you been successful in getting executives online? Share some of your tips in the comments below!

– Marji J. Sherman

Your #COVID19 #CrisisComm Cheatsheet

Hey! Welcome to the craziest crisis that seems to touch any and every business in the world right now. Suddenly, email inboxes are being flooded with what company you’ve ever engaged with is doing to make sure their employees and products are safe. Enter critiques, enter human errors, enter a major need for crisis communications.

I’ve been involved in a few crises during my decade career in social and digital media marketing, and a way to win a crisis is to BE PREPARED for a crisis before one even happens. When I was the head of social at a company in NYC, we had regular bomb threat drills, biochemical attack drills, fire drills, etc. You get the point. Not only did we have physical drills of what to do in case of emergency, we had crisis plans in place for what individuals were needed in an immediate war room once a crisis broke, and which media would be the first to share our response as a company, and who needed to approve that response.

On the far other end of the spectrum, I worked for a national company in South Florida that refused to acknowledge crises until they were already a full blown social media mess. Employees had no idea what the company’s stance was, or that there was even an issue, until they read something online. Soon after, a new hatchet man, disguised as a new CEO, joined the company and got rid of everyone I knew who ever worked there, and I knew the entire C-Suite.

Granted, some brands can be let off the hook because it wasn’t apparent how severely coronavirus would disrupt our society. But it’s not too late to activate a crisis communications plan and stay on top of what is happening right now in our world. Be transparent with your employees, evaluate what might need to change with your products/services, find where you can help right now.

Fortunately, I created a crisis communications guide for companies during #COIVD19 using my experience dealing with crises both on digital and traditional media. I included the infographic below, but please download the PDF version so you can click on each link for details on what to do in a crisis in that particular section of your company.

Good luck on your journey through this! – Marji J. Sherman