5 Ways Your Brand Can Succeed Among Facebook’s New Privacy Rules

Privacy. My generation (Millennials) disregarded it altogether, while Generation Y runs to apps such as Snapchat and Instagram Stories to ensure their content only lives for 24 hours. Surprisingly, I was always against Facebook (originally.) I was so into privacy growing up that I insisted on only dating guys from the other high school across town, and I succeeded. While it was not completely private because I was born and raised in a small town in Wyoming, it did manage to cut a pretty good percentage of the gossip down since no one ever saw us at school together. Enter college in Florida and my first boyfriend insists that I get a Facebook page so we can “officially” be in a relationship. You can probably imagine the face I gave him, it wasn’t great. When he took me home for his birthday weekend, I found out why privacy can be super important. It started out amazingly well until he left me with his best guy friends and one of them said, “How are you doing, Mary?” And I said, “No, it’s Marji.” Then another guy said, “No, it’s Mary.” Then the only guy who seemed to know what was going on at all (who ironically became my best friend over the next few years) told them to be quiet and that I was “Marji.” It didn’t take long for all of the guys to spill that B had told them of a different girlfriend, Mary, who also went to our college. And it didn’t take long for me to angrily walk past the pool and to my tipsy boyfriend to find out that he did, indeed, have another girlfriend at school. I was MORTIFIED. And during all of this, I was even more mortified to think that we were still “official” before all of our friends’ eyes and they had no idea my heart had just been crushed for the first time as a college student. On top of that, I learned later that this Mary girl had watched our entire relationship play out on Facebook, thinking that I knew I was wrecking her own relationship with B. I reached out to her on Facebook, so sad for what this ahole did to two girls, and realized over the next decade that Facebook official never leads to a good outcome…believe me.

So here we are in 2019, watching Facebook finally confront a lot of the privacy issues it has just freely gotten away with over the past decade or so. And it’s wonderful for Marji as a consumer (who does not have her relationship on Facebook anymore and only refers to her bf every now and then by saying, “J,”) but a death trap for Marji the social media pro. I have to admit, I had a shaky, hard-to-breathe moment when I first noticed the privacy changes. My life as a social media pro flashed before my eyes and I saw the very end of social media as a profession. And to be transparent, I am not far from that place right now as I continue to watch more privacy changes be implemented to the platform. Let’s think about this for a second— Facebook is powerful due to its advanced targeting abilities. Tighter privacy on Facebook means less targeting abilities. Therefore, privacy issues hit at the very core of what Facebook is best at doing. Yes, advertisers can still advertise, but are advertisements as effective if you have to change your messaging and not be able to narrowly target your audience? This is a question a lot of marketers will be asking throughout the rest of this year. I will tell you, that I already have tests set up to see the impact of less specific audience targeting and more general messaging.

You might wonder why I brought messaging into this since I am overall talking about targeting via Facebook ads. It’s because not only do these new privacy issues brought to light impact advertising, they also impact how you speak as a brand on Facebook. One brand I work with always uses “you.” To be honest, a lot of brands I have worked with use “you.” It establishes a direct connection with the consumer and helps them to feel more like you are speaking directly to them. And all consumers like being spoken to directly and personally. Facebook slapped us on the wrist and blocked the boosted post. When we asked them why, they explained that were profiling and that is against their guidelines. To give you (ha, see what I did there?) more perspective, the exact opening line they had a problem with was — “Are you having a baby?” Now I believe most of us would find that as a harmless question. Facebook argued that it was profiling moms to be and we absolutely cannot do that. Their advice for us moving forward was to leave “you” out of any copy. For example, we COULD say — “People who are having a baby should XYZ.” Always speak to your audience in third person so you are not profiling. WHAT?! So now Facebook is telling us what tone of voice we should be using?! Immediately I think, “This is why I didn’t want to join Facebook my first year of college…” Of course.

That is just one example of how Facebook’s new privacy rules, which are for sure about to get even stricter, impact brands. From messaging to targeting, you better bet that these rules highly affect you as a brand. And here are some things you need to be thinking about as they continue to become stricter over time:

Put More Effort Into Other Platforms

Unless your target market is strictly seniors, this is something you should be doing anyways. Generation Y is NOT on Facebook and Generation X is quickly falling off as their parents and grandparents dominate the social media network. Younger generations are looking for networks where their content disappears right away and for networks that are more visual. Move to Instagram and see how you can make that work for you, or try SnapChat. The most stupid thing you could do is poor the same amount of time and energy into a network that younger generations are writing off and who is currently tightening anything you can do as an advertiser, without giving you any advertising breaks. You’re still paying the same price!

Educate The C-Suite

If you work at a larger company, now is the time to start educating your C-Suite on the privacy changes on Facebook because they will soon negatively impact your advertising metrics. Depending on the social media skills of your upper management (usually limited,) I would begin with a description of your current advertising strategy on a very 101 level and then speak to specific points that these changes will impact your metrics and what you can/cannot do on social media as a brand moving forward. This will help them warm up to the idea before they see changed messaging and metrics. I would even include a few articles from 2019 on the changes so they can read on if they prefer.

Be Creative

I was part of the OG (original) social media manager crowd, social media for brands becoming a thing the same year I graduated from college. And if you are also part of the OG crowd, you know that we got places with social media because we were CREATIVE. We didn’t take things at face value and found incredibly innovative ways to make social media work for whatever brand we happened to be working for at the time. My first social media gig was for an international sports brand and famous bodybuilder. The VP crashed my interview, and without knowing anything about me, he said that I could have the job and if I increased their fan base by XYZ by the end of the month I could keep my job and get a $10K raise. If I didn’t, I was fired at the end of month. I lied and said I had social media experience (I started out in communications research for PR firms, far from the emerging social media universe.) I found that I had to stay up every night until 3 AM so I could personally respond to the international bodybuilding crowd when they became engaged with our brand on social media. I was tired, but IT WORKED. Even launching contests at that time worked better. I took on a very sassy tone that no brand would even dream of using these days and they responded like none other to that, even being sassy back. We had tons of international bodybuilders who got used to this sassy tone at 3 AM and would come online every single day to talk to us. We even had American bodybuilders staying up late to join the sassy conversation of the brand that they felt was so incredibly authentic for a brand at that time. No one told me to do that, I was just scared to death of losing a job and tried everything and anything that worked. Soon this community was talking about which of our products they bought and then the other half would share what they had just bought that day— proving these conversations were leading to sales. I more than exceeded the number the VP gave me by three weeks in, and continued to for my entire tenure at the brand. Because I kept trying things no one else had thought of. My creativity allowed me to see things others didn’t, which led to us always being ahead of our competitors on social media.

Poll Your Target Audience

Investing in polls is invaluable. Hire a polling company and poll your target audience to see which networks they actually use. You might find out that they actually aren’t on Facebook at all and you can redirect that money and time to other networks. Honestly, that’s probably the best thing you can do with the present and upcoming privacy changes. If they are on Facebook, poll again asking what kind of content they engage with most and start refining your content.

Ask Your Audience To Follow Your Page

This is an age-old trick, but incredibly valuable. Take a screenshot of where your fans can follow your page. Then send out a post explaining that they only see 2% (or whatever your current brand percentage is) of your content, and if they want to see more they need to follow you as a brand on Facebook. This seems so ridiculously corny and self-promoting, but I have seen it work wonders with brands. Something to remember with social media in general is that when you are direct and ask your audience to take an action, they respond in droves. Audiences want you to direct them on what to do. It seems counter-intuitive, but it works.

I guessed about two years ago that social media would soon fade into other roles and stop being a specialized role within companies. This means that it would become a part of a digital specialist role, part of customer service role, part of a graphic designer’s role. We are already seeing this happen with social customer specialists— Half social media/half customer service trained. As our society continues the quest for more privacy, I believe this prediction will become even more true. Will social media roles every truly go away? Idk, but will they evolve into other roles? Absolutely.

What tips have you found useful as you advertise on Facebook with all of these new privacy restrictions? Leave your answer in the comments!

– Marji J. Sherman

How To Add Sprinkles To Your Social Media Strategy

I grew up with two amazing grandmothers. One was incredible baker whose grandmother taught her the family recipes that her own grandmother taught her. The other wanted to be an incredible baker, and my gosh, she tried harder than I have ever seen anyone try to create her own recipes to hand down to me. However, her idea of adding her own special mark to recipes included pouring a whole bottle of wine over two cans of fruit cocktail and serving it to my sisters and my three-year-old stuff. Suffice it to say, Mama didn’t let us eat at the grandmother’s house past that visit.

I like to think that I followed in grandmother #1’s footsteps, as I spent every summer in her kitchen in Wisconsin learning all of our secret family recipes. She kept the white wine to herself, keeping a glass in the freezer and sneaking sips when she thought I wouldn’t notice. The rest of the afternoons were usually spent with her saying sh*t every other second as she got her pie dough just right. This was quite shocking and humorous coming from a society woman who I never, ever heard cuss any other time.

As much as I pretend to be her with my own vodka concoction in the freezer when I start to mix pie dough, our lives turned out to have two completely different paths. Grandma TH was first and foremost a society woman hosting every event possible, baking for and visiting those in the hospital, volunteering at the hospital gift shop, making sure her own three daughters were dressed to the nines and also trained impeccably in. how to behave at societal events. She was the epitome of a lady. And somehow she also managed to teach at the local high school and tutor when needed AND was the stereotypical 1950s housewife always putting my grandpa and his needs first.

I got exhausted just writing that last paragraph. When I was growing up I wanted to be just like her but ended up falling a little more in love with my career than my ‘society’ life. My grandma watched in horror and then, eventually, some sort of understanding, as I put dating to the side and took 24/7 jobs in NYC. While I wasn’t taking care of my community or teaching school or breeding…I had my own busy-ness that consumed my life. I rarely got home earlier than 1 AM from work, turning right around to go back in at 7 AM. Weekends were spent attempting to go on dates, but soon being interrupted by work, which led to not even wanting to try to go out on the weekends anymore. And I LOVED it. However, it meant ZERO time using all of the domestic skills I learned growing up and becoming a master at predicting GrubHub delivery times to my office.

Sprinkles became less about the finishing touches to desserts for me and more about the hidden ‘WOW’ factors I would write into social media strategies with Pad Thai in one hand and writing ideas down on scratch paper with the other hand. I fell in love with both of my grandmas’ passion to put their own mark on what they created and decided that whatever I created would also have my mark on it.

The number one issue I have heard raised in consulting sessions when I am telling a client that they have to add sprinkles somewhere, ANYWHERE, is that their brand is not a ‘cutesy’, ‘hip’ brand so it does not make sense for them to add sprinkles. That is complete bullsh*t and I have told them as much. I have written impactful social media strategies for hard-hitting brands such as the Anti-Defamation League, Capital One, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, KOHLER Co. and Upper Room Ministries. I think we can all agree that all of those brands would interpret ‘sparkle’ differently. That doesn’t mean a financial, serious brand like Capital One has an excuse to not add sprinkles to their strategy. It just means they have to be more creative on how they add sprinkles that still reflect their brand values. If you don’t have established brand values yet, you might want to skip the rest of this post and start here: 10 Elements Of An Effective Social Media Strategy.

If you feel like you are in a solid place with your brand values and overall social media strategy, continue reading for five ways to add some sprinkles to your strategy:

Track Competitors

You should be doing this regardless! Tracking competitors comes in handy in two ways when adding some spark to your brand >> Inspiration and to sell your ideas to the C-suite. First, get inspired by the unique ways your competitors are entering the social media space. Then use that inspiration to create something entirely different for your brand that will make some news. Once you have a tangible idea, use examples from your competitors to illustrate to your C-suite that it’s okay to be a little risky in the social media space.

Hire A Graphic Designer AND Videographer

When I started out in social media, it was a one (wo)man show. I was the copywriter, graphic designer, videographer and community manager. As social media has become more advanced, (some) teams now have the budget and need for one person per role. One of the most important roles, especially when creating differentiating content, is a graphic designer/videographer hybrid. I studied graphic design and still hand over all assets to a graphic designer. If you want your content to pop, you absolutely have to have one employee dedicated to just the social media visuals. And with video being the most engaged with source of content these days, you better have someone who can also edit videos!

Write A Boundaries One-Pager

I live and breathe by one-pagers. I cannot stress the importance of these succinct Google docs enough. In this case, you will definitely want a one-pager that provides some guidelines for just how bright and thick you are willing to have your sprinkles be. This should be semi-similar to a visual guidelines one-pager. You will want to include things like font, font size, acceptable colors, acceptable words, tone of voice, examples of unique content, and a list of do’s and don’t’s.

Constantly Revisit Boundaries

Social media is one of the fastest changing media channels so make sure you are always keeping your boundaries fresh and relevant. This might mean pushing your boundaries a little further out or reeling them back in to avoid a faux pas. You should always have a pulse on the social media scene and adjust accordingly.

Send Yourself + Team To Conferences

This is where I see social media teams make the biggest mistakes. They are always “too busy” to go to a conference, and when they do end up forcing themselves to go they spend the whole time in the back of the room answering emails and putting out fires. Conferences are SUPER important for social media pros because they (usually) tap into the latest social media trends which will help influence your content. Not only do they inspire new ideas, but they also show how other brands sold unique content to leadership, emphasize the current do’s and don’t’s of social media and provide examples of one-pagers and templates you can start using in your own content management. Do not ever underestimate the value of conferences. My personal two favorites are Social Fresh and any conference by Gartner (I am a research nerd at heart.)

Bottom line, it doesn’t matter who you are as a brand >> you need to pour some sprinkles on your social media strategy if you want to break through the constantly increasing noise. This can be anything from starting a video series to hosting Twitter chats to the extreme of creating a brand personality that is literally its own bubbly online personality. Anything that your brand can completely own and use to drive engagement and (hopefully) sales.

I might not be the domestic goddess my grandmothers were, but I do know when and how to add the sprinkles.

– Marji J. Sherman

5 Reasons Your Brand Needs To Be On Twitter

Out of all of the jobs and clients I have had, Twitter always seems to be the least likely for anyone to want to use. I get it. I was introduced to Twitter at a college internship and hated everything about it. I refused to get one until my boss said that in order to remain an intern at the agency I had to have one. I used a fake name and did not post one tweet…forever. It wasn’t until I was up to a nice 73 followers that I started noticing the value of Twitter. Two years out of college I realized that I was able to have one-on-one conversations with the industry’s greats and get to a brand FAST without being put on hold. I fell in love. Yet, there is an entire world out there full of corporations and small businesses that still refuse to use Twitter. The two excuses I hear the most are that Twitter runs so fast it takes too much time and too much content AND a fear of losing privacy and/or making a mistake that ends up on the front page of Mashable. Fair enough. However, fear should never be the reason you do not move to a different social media network. While Twitter has had its ups and downs, it still remains one of the most valuable tools for one-on-one conversations with consumers (hint: with personalization being a HUGE part of 2019 strategies, this is IMPORTANT) and for consumer research.

I really do get it if you are leery of jumping onto the network, but maybe, just maybe, you could try a few of these effortless tips and see the magical glory that lives behind the 240 character-limit curtain? I will, if you will.

Targeting For Less Money

I swear by Twitter for laser sharp targeting…for free. That’s right. You can search for nearly everything, anything and everyone on Twitter due to most of its users having public profiles. You want moms that don’t have time to cook? Done. You want men who just want 35 minutes more in the day to go for a run? Done. People overly share their interests and details of their life on Twitter, which makes it the ideal playground for targeting the consumers you are looking for. And you can do all of this without spending a dime. In fact, I recommend organically searching for your audience on Twitter versus spending a ton amount of money with Twitter (sorry, Twitter). It will do you wonders.

Customer Service Necessity

If you are a huge corporate brand, or a CEO of one, or a small business, YOU NEED EXCEPTIONAL CUSTOMER SERVICE. With the trend of personalization, consumers are looking even more for a quick, accurate, empathetic response. A ton go to Twitter only to get answers from brands about products. If you ignore this customer service hub, you are ignoring a huge amount of questions, concerns and even compliments from your consumers.

Research

I started my career working for a research public relations firm in NYC. I LOVE RESEARCH. So, when I finally opened up my mind to using Twitter, I became obsessed with the ability to research everything from product usability to what your consumers actually care about. You can use what you find on Twitter to help improve your website, tweak your products and better tailor content to your consumers. It’s incredible.

Exposure

Twitter is one of the BEST social media networks for brand awareness. It’s one of the few networks that you have the ability to enter third-party conversations and industry conversations for FREE. I highly recommend participating in Twitter chats and searching for tweets that you can answer about your industry. When I was starting out in social media, I caught a tweet from a famous DJ to one of our fans. I entered the conversation as the brand, and before we knew it we were redoing his entire bathroom! We gained tons of IG posts, tweets and Facebook videos from catching that one interaction. The exposure is truly insane on Twitter.

Authenticity

This is quite the buzz word that I plan on writing about (again) soon. Authenticity is not picking the perfect filter so it looks like you didn’t try when you took a picture. It’s about actually being yourself as a brand, which can be an uncomfortable space for a brand. I would even argue that this is why a lot of brands are timid about the platform. You don’t have time to create the perfect tweet every time you need to send one. A lot of tweeting needs to be done on the fly before all levels of the company can approve it. Scary, I know. Totally worth it, though. Consumers love Twitter because they feel like they are seeing the soul of the brand through the many tweets it sends out each day. It gives them a sense of being a part of that brand’s community in a way other networks can’t. Twitter allows your brand the opportunity to shine as its real self, unedited. Believe me, consumers gravitate towards this.

I hope some of these reasons will encourage you to get on Twitter, or at least let your social media team expand a bit on a network that you might be uncomfortable with. Twitter is not going anywhere, in spite of a lot of news stories. They are doing amazing things on the extremist front, making sure they are removing accounts that represent extremists and racists. They also are listening to the same research of a huge chunk of consumers that you also have access to. Don’t be afraid of the fast pace. Be excited! This is a change to test your brand and show consumers who you really are.

– Marji J. Sherman

How To Be Vulnerable As A Brand On Social Media

I was voted off the lunch table in 8th grade >> survivor style. This is the first moment I remember feeling absolute, total vulnerability. Once a popular blonde running student council, I was now alone, with nowhere to sit in a crowded room. I was voted off because I went against the grain, against the crowd. My best friend at the time asked me to lie about the number of reps she did in the gym, right after our teacher threatened to flunk the next person who lied. So…I didn’t lie. Apparently adhering to my ethics was suicide to my dreams of maintaining my junior high popular status. She convinced all of our AP friends to vote me off of our lunch table and spent the rest of junior high finding any way she could to bully me. It was hell. And I felt vulnerable. On top of that, I was unaware I had an advanced chronic disease and wandered the halls feeling as though I was going to faint at any moment. I struggled to keep my head up in class, as I ran high fevers and the room began to spin around me. I developed a fear of getting from one class to the next, of even finding my way home at the end of the day. This only gave my bully more material to work with. Having grown up a straight-A, talent show winning blonde, the sense of rejection and health issues made me feel naked in front of the entire school. Finally diagnosed at the Children’s Hospital of Denver, I spent two years between school and homebound, being told I would never graduate from high school, yet alone be able to go to college. Well, I did graduate from high school with mostly As (only one B in my school career) and graduated from the University of Miami (over 1000 miles from my hometown in Wyoming.) I listened to God, instead of the doctors, and I survived and thrived. I turned vulnerability into my strength and pushed past the obstacles. I tested out of the high school I was supposed to go to and tested into an honors program at a different high school. I thought I would be finally free of my best friend turned master bully, but she also tested into the honors program at the high school across town and was in the room when I went to high school orientation. She tried to bully me in high school, but these kids at the new school related more to my vulnerability and less to her, well, bitchiness. I was free.

Years later, I had to shave my hair a few weeks ago because I started losing half of it due to a chemo I am on. Once again, I am standing naked in the middle of a junior high cafeteria. I feel vulnerable as I struggle to survive something that is killing something bad in my body but also killing some things that are good. Brene Brown is the queen of vulnerability saying, “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”  Let me tell you something >> there is nothing like presenting your imperfect self when you are a makeup-less baldy that feels like she is going to vomit at any moment and is on four different medications to help with the side effects of the chemo.  Brene Brown also says, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” I cannot tell you how much love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity I have received by being open about my health journey. See, by remaining naked in the junior high cafeteria and letting people see me for who I am, I have opened the door for them to give all of these beautiful things (love, belonging, joy, etc.) right back to me. 

Okay, so what does this have to do with a professional brand on social media? Well, look at the last source of vulnerability that Brene sites >> authenticity. And what makes a brand stellar on social media? Authenticity. So that means for a brand to be truly authentic, it needs to be vulnerable >> aka honest, transparent, real.

Here are five ways your brand can be ‘vulnerable’ on social media:

Admit Your Wrongs

This is numero uno. You must, MUST be transparent when it comes to a crisis within your company. Don’t try to hide it, don’t cover it up with a ‘no comment.’ Admit what happened, apologize, correct your mistakes and move on. I will forever refer to the DiGiorno social media mastermind who royally messed up and OWNED it. It was the best thing DiGiorno ever did. You can read more about that here >> How To Survive A Social Media Crisis.

Strip Yourself Down To The Core

Seriously, though. Don’t pull back just one layer >> pull it all back until you find the very core of your brand and then share that with your followers and fans. Don’t try to sugarcoat everything and make it pretty. Just share the raw, authentic story of who you are and what you plan to do with your brand. Consumers are craving a bland that reveals its core, instead of one that tries to PhotoShop every moment before sharing it online.

Ask For Help

It seems counterintuitive because you are your brand, so you should know the most about your brand. However, social media provides a wealth of knowledge for your R&D teams and also for your communications teams in general. Ask your fans and followers what you could be doing better >> and then be ready to deliver results. This is one of the most effective ways to use social media to both connect with your fans and improve your branding and products.

Seek Community

It’s always ‘Build Community,’ right?! Well, you need to also ‘seek’ community. You need to set up listening streams for topics important to your consumers and jump into third-party conversations. It’s always nerve-wrecking to join a conversation with strangers at a cocktail party, but it soooo necessary to build your community. Seek out influencers and consumers relevant to your brand and ENGAGE with them, no matter how uncomfortable it feels. Don’t just sit there and wait for them to come to you.

Stand Up For What You Believe In

Yea, so obviously this got me voted off of the lunch table, but hopefully, it will yield better results for your brand. We are living in a highly tense political climate, and brands are finding new avenues to insert their opinions into their messaging. (See my post on when and how you should meddle in politics here: Should Your Brand Be Discussing News & Politics On Social Media?) If something is going on in the political environment conflicts with your brand values >> speak up. Granted, this will have consequences by alienating consumers who disagree with you, but that means these are consumers who also disagree with your brand values so…whatevs. It is so important to speak up and show that your brand has a backbone.

 

There you go. Five tips for being more vulnerable on social media that (hopefully) won’t get you voted off of the lunch table. No promises, though 🙂 

– Marji J. Sherman

How To Write A Hashtag Strategy (And Why You Desperately Need One)

I have finally hit the age where I realize I am no longer a part of the hip, young generation. I could sense myself falling out of it once everyone I knew was on Snapchat, and I just had no interest in having one. I also sensed my transformation out of the hip generation when I taught youth group. Man, those kids were using words I had never even heard of before. While to some of you this should be no issue, I mean it’s common sense that I would eventually grow out of the younger generation, to social media managers this should definitely be a concern. We do not have to ‘live’ the hip life, but we do have to always be on top of trends to stay relevant in an ever-changing social media landscape.

And the biggest way I have seen social media pros ignore recent trends is by thinking that the hashtag has become irrelevant. If Instagram had never come on the scene I might, just might, semi-agree. The hashtag used to be the primary search tool for Twitter. Obviously, that’s no longer a thing, so you could see where some would think it has lost its power. However, the younger generation’s obsession with Instagram has brought the ‘pound sign’ back to life, and marketers need to start revamping their hashtag strategies so they can reach this generation where they are.

So here are a few tips to make sure your work is ‘hip’ and on point with a hashtag strategy:

Research

The single most important step to any strategy is to start with research. Find your target audience on social media and see what hashtags they are using most. Do any of these relate to your brand? If so, add them to an excel spreadsheet. Add every single one you can, making sure to reference where and how you saw it being used in one of the columns of your spreadsheet. 

Create

Think about how you want your brand to be ‘branded’ on social media. Every hashtag strategy should include hashtags for awareness (like the ones you found during the research stage) and hashtags for branding (ones you create that relate directly back to your brand). Your branded hashtags should somehow relate back to your brand. You can do this by actually including your brand’s name in the hashtag, or by tying your hashtag to your brand’s tagline. 

Narrow It Down

The biggest mistake pros make when writing hashtag strategies is including too many hashtags. While you will need quite a few (Buffer claims you need at least 11 to have a successful Instagram post), you do not need the whole kitchen sink. The best way to narrow down hashtags is to use a fancy little tool called Hashtagify.me. This tool will tell you if the hashtag is popular, and if so, what the conversation is around the hashtag. You want to choose hashtags that are popular and have a positive conversation around them. You also want to make sure they are not 100 percent owned by another brand (aka that only one brand has been using them). Hashtagify.me also shows what other hashtags are being used, related to the one you are researching. This can help you find more hashtags to use, in case you did not find many during your research phase. When it comes to your branded hashtags, you want to make sure that no one else has used them previously.

Create Rules

This step is the actual meat of the strategy. In your excel doc, create the following columns:

  • Hashtag
  • Description: Describe what this hashtag means. 
  • When To Use: Is it only to be used with a certain image? Is it only for a certain campaign? Is it to be used with every post about the brand? 
  • Who Can Use: Is it a hashtag only for employee advocacy? If you have multiple brands/offices, should only certain brands/offices be using it? 
  • Example: Provide examples of how it used with branded content.
  • Active/Inactive: Some hashtags may become inactive. For example, if it is a hashtag for a campaign, it would be inactive once that campaign is over. If it’s a hashtag for a holiday or an event, it will become inactive until the next holiday or event.
  • Branded/Generic: Branded are the hashtags you created for your brand that no one else is using, while generic are the ones you researched for brand awareness. 

Socialize

Once you create this fancy document, socialize it! Make sure everyone who touches social media for your brand, including employees participating in an employee advocacy program, have access to the document so they know when they should/should not be using certain hashtags. 

Police

This is a tough, but important, part of the strategy. Monitor every hashtag on your doc by setting up search streams for each one (you can do this for free through Hootsuite), and make sure they are being used correctly. If an employee, office, or another part of your brand is using them incorrectly, send a kind (but firm) email with the doc attached, reminding them of appropriate times to use each hashtag.

Test And Learn

Hashtags change quickly, and not keeping up with the pace of their transformation could land you on the front page of Mashable. If you see a hashtag on your doc just isn’t performing well or starts to be used in an inappropriate way by an audience you have no control over, immediately remove it. Also make an effort to always search for new hashtags you could be using. Every time you make a change, be sure to re-socialize the doc to the appropriate team members, offices and branches of the brand.

 

While some people feel hashtags have become irrelevant as Twitter becomes less relevant, that is just not the case. As the younger generation continues to move to more trendy social media networks that also utilize hashtags, make sure that you are staying ‘hip’ and have a hashtag strategy in place. You cannot underestimate the power of an organic hashtag search on these social media networks. 

– Marji J. Sherman

 

 

 

The Rise Of The Micro-Influencer And Tips For Including Them In Your Influencer Strategy

There has been a huge shift in influencer marketing. As consumers become more digital savvy, they see through the mega influencers with millions of followers and crave something more real and authentic. Enter the micro-influencer >> an influencer with significantly fewer followers but astoundingly more engagement from the community they have cultivated. Rather than paying for followers, or gaining followers by giving away free products, these influencers have built their communities around simply who they are and what they believe in. Consumers follow them because they truly believe in their lifestyle and feel less marketed to and more like the influencer is just sharing a product that they actually use in their life. 

Here are some things to think about to update your influencer strategy and start engaging impactful micro-influencers: 

Rearrange Your Budget

Instead of dropping thousands on a macro-influencer, divide the same amount among many micro-influencers. If you are not sold on the micro-influencer concept, spend half of your budget on one mega-influencer and then divide the other half among macro-influencers. Track the ROI and let it speak to how much more engagement and brand awareness you receive from the macro-influencer versus the pool of micro-influencers.

Narrow Your Target Audience

The secret to a successful influencer marketing strategy is knowing what audience you are targeting inside-out. How do they behave online AND offline? What products are they already talking about? How are they currently talking about your brand? Look beyond the normal demographics and find out everything and anything you can about them. This will help ensure that you are choosing the right micro-influencers for your brand and your consumers.

Track How Your Target Audience Currently Engages With Influencers

This is a step that a lot of brands miss, and pay for down the road. You absolutely have to know how your target audience currently engages with influencers to know what influencers are going to be right for your brand to use. For example, if your current target audience is not engaging with influencers at all, you want to make sure that your influencer strategy is very authentic and feels like a natural part of your consumers’ dialogue online. If they hint a bit of ‘sales’ material at all, they will tune it out. If they are regularly engaging with influencers, you will want to track how they are engaging with them and look at what attributes the influencers they are engaging with have in common. This will help you pick out similar influencers to use.

Do Your Own Influencer Homework

They are hundreds of agencies ready and willing to choose your influencers for you. I’m not saying to not let them help you along the way, but I am saying that you need to do your own homework first. Take a look at what influencers are out there that might be relevant for your brand. Keep your target audience in mind. If your consumers have a lower income bracket, you don’t want to use an influencer that is constantly dressed in designer clothes with their matching designer purses. You also would not want to pick an influencer that is always on vacations in foreign countries with beautiful ocean views from their hotel room. You will want to pick an influencer who is more showing their day-to-day moments in life and not always showing off an extravagant lifestyle. However, if your target audience has a higher income, you will want to look at micro-influencers that are sharing lavish photos of their extravagant lifestyle. At the end of the day, you want to choose micro-influencers that are living a lifestyle similar to that of your target audience so they can relate to the influencer on an authentic level.

Don’t Force It

If your target audience is not responding to micro nor macro influencers, don’t force influencer marketing on them. Using influencers to sell your products/services do not work for every target audience. Sometimes an audience is too independent to care what others are doing or spending their money on, or sometimes they are so burnt out from the unauthentic macro-influencer phase that they can even see through micro-influencers and they do not want any of it. As with anything in social media, it’s a great idea to test and put some money behind influencer marketing to see if it works for you, but it’s even more important to learn from the experience and stop if it isn’t working for your brand.

 

Hopefully some of these tips will be helpful as you embark on your influencer marketing strategy. Remember the most important thing is that consumers are becoming more and more savvy, craving real, authentic experiences that fit into their current lifestyles. Micro-influencers can have a greater impact than macro-influencers because their communities are more likely built around similar values and interests.

Do you have experience with macro versus micro influencers? If so, leave your comments below!

– Marji J. Sherman