25 February 2021
Great visuals are a critical component to having a successful social media design and social media marketing that drives engagement. This is even more important on highly visual channels like Facebook and Instagram. Here are some tips that will help you become that social media champion and ensure your social media design is on point. Cropping/Composition How your images are cropped is crucial. If you center all of your content, the images are a lot less interesting. Instead, try cropping the subject so that it’s off-center. This will draw the audience into the image. Also, don’t crop your subject so that it is right on the edge of a shape—either crop it off or don’t crop it at all. Avoid awkward tangents created by hard lines like rooflines, doors and windows. This will help optimize the visuals that you are using for your social media design. Image Size Always make sure to use the optimum image size that’s available and is the correct aspect ratio for each social channel. Images that aren’t correctly sized look unprofessional. Lighting Lighting in photography is one of the most fundamental aspects of social media design. Your subject should always be well lit with plenty of contrast between lights and darks. Flat images will not grab anyone’s attention. The more dynamic, the better. Stock Photography Stock photography can be used successfully for social media design, but it needs to be top quality. Don’t use images that are overly staged or predictable. Everyone has seen the cliché images of businesspeople shaking hands or attractive people smiling. If you are going to use stock photography, make it as authentic as possible. Try using photography that’s captured by a professional photographer and unique to your brand. Here are some great resources shutterstock.com stock.abobe.com pexels.com pixabay.com Brand Photography should always be on-brand. Try to develop a consistent look and feel—it will make your feed more interesting and help you convey the right message to your audience. Use similar lighting, style and tone so your feed looks cohesive. If you work for a corporation, chances are you have brand guidelines that cover social media marketing or social media design. Reference that document as needed to make sure that you are following the rules. Resolution Using low-resolution images is the kiss of death in social media design. Each channel continues to make improvements to their platforms. If you are using a smartphone to take images, make sure it is a newer model with a quality camera. Go to each social channel’s site and check the recommended specifications before posting any images as part of your social media marketing efforts. Unique Camera Angles If you’re shooting your own photography for social media design, try this: change the orientation of the camera to create interest or shoot the photo from a different vantage point (like from higher to lower, for example). Mix it up to keep things fresh. Quality It isn’t always about how many images you post—the old adage is true … so focus on quality, instead. Even a few bad photos can lessen the impact of your presence and turn off your audience. People are constantly bombarded with media these days—don’t fall victim to your audience tuning you out because of bad imagery. Social media marketing is a powerful way to promote your brand, products and services. Garnering engagement and growing your audience is always satisfying—so keep at it! If you run into hiccups, we’re here to help. Our social media team is HubSpot certified and knows the ins and outs of all-things social media design.
20 January 2021
Reputation management is key to defending the brand you’ve worked so hard to build. The most visible aspect of reputation management is how customers see you respond to negative reviews and comments. Responding to negative online reviews is one of the more nuanced and, at times, nerve-racking challenges of a successful social media program. Your brand, whether you’re selling confections or construction equipment, ultimately serves customers. Customers are people. And sometimes people are disappointed, unreasonable or just want to get some attention for being the squeaky wheel. It comes with the territory. In fact, online reputation management was one of the greatest obstacles to traditional companies adopting branded social media as much as a dozen years ago. One high-profile CEO with an expression of horror asked me, “You mean anybody can say anything they want, even if it makes us look bad?!” As reassuringly as I could, I told her, “Yes. They can. And they will.” Fast forward a few years and having a social media presence is not an option anymore. Even if you don’t own a smartphone or have an Instagram account, your customers do. And platforms like Google, Yelp and TripAdvisor are incentivizing them to share their opinions. If you’re not engaged in reputation management, somebody will do it for you. Accepting the inevitability of negative online reviews is a great first step in preparing to respond to Google reviews, Yelp comments or Facebook and Twitter posts that may be less than admiring of your product, service or brand. Over the past few years, some brands even have become quite popular for their skill at online reputation management, with some even clapping back at online detractors. Local bars and restaurants have taken to displaying some of their more outrageous reviews ironically as a way to demonstrate their bona fides. Even well-known national brands have gotten into the act. Wendy’s Twitter account, for example, has developed an enthusiastic following for their funny and sometimes brutal roasts in response to unfair attacks. This works for these brands because it’s both in keeping with their brand character AND they have the talent and resources—especially time—to commit to responding. In general, unless you have a very specific clientele that is attracted to wit and snark, it’s not usually a good idea for your reputation management effort to include aggressive banter with dissatisfied customers. Some are trolls, yes, and while it’s tempting, it’s never a great idea to feed them. The most successful brands in the social space respond to negative online reviews and comments with sincere empathy. They demonstrate a genuine concern for consumers while making it clear to their customers and others who may be following along that a single bad experience is not typical and not acceptable. How do smart brands approach online reputation management? The most important best practice is to respond to all negative reviews. Responding will, all by itself, earn you credit in the community. Imagine you’re out there in the real world and somebody is making a complaint to the manager at some business you patronize. You may have no idea whether the customer is right in the case or not. You may even be inclined to feel that the complaints are valid. But as an experienced consumer, you also know that even in the best run organizations, there can be mistakes and disappointments. Demonstrating your openness to listening to your customers and responding to their comments—positive or negative—builds trust in your brand. Take the detailed discussion offline. More than anything, people who post negative online reviews usually just want to be heard. They were looking forward to a pleasant experience and something went wrong. They’re disappointed. Hear them out, but not in the public space of an online back-and-forth if it’s at all possible. Invite them to send a direct message with details and their contact information. Or, offer them a dedicated email address or phone number to open up a personal exchange. Most important, respond quickly. Online and social media interactions are conversations and your brand needs to be present to hold up your end of the dialogue. That means devoting enough resources so that your reputation management team can monitor and quickly respond to questions or comments, positive and negative. It’s OK to say you’re sorry, even if it’s not your fault. Assume best intentions on the part of negative reviewers. At least until demonstrated otherwise. Maybe they were just expecting something else. Maybe they have your place confused with another business. Showing sympathy for the misunderstanding shows a commitment to service and can only enhance your brand reputation. For a customizable toolkit for responding to negative online reviews, subscribe to our email list!
29 April 2020
Author: Steve Bleh
If you’re from the do-more-with-less school of marketing, what a time to be alive for you. But for brands who need to stay engaged with their audiences despite social distancing and restrictions on the size of gatherings, the last few weeks have been a time to get creative. Absent the ability to pull together photo or video shoots, many marketers have been forced to rely on existing assets or (horrors!) stock images and video. But some organizations have turned to their people and members of their own audiences for new content that’s both fresh and relevant. And when the content and execution matches brand identity, the shared experiences can be not just impressive, but inspiring. An example of that is the Parks @ Home campaign from our friends (and clients) at Great Parks of Hamilton County. The parks remain open, but with picnic areas, playground equipment and especially restrooms off-limits, it can be challenging for families with young children to enjoy a visit, even on a beautiful spring day. With the help of the Great Parks pros, they’ve created online experiences, educational content, learning activities and enriching games to engage kids and their parents. http://stgregory.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/20_0442_GREATPARKS_FAMILIES_15_HD.mp4 Most notably, it presents an opportunity for members of their audience to connect with each other through the program, with shared activities and exercises that foster conversation and build lasting engagement. Great Parks has some distinct advantages and they’ve created a way to leverage those assets to keep their audiences engaged during social distancing. Brands who do likewise will see it pay off once we get back to something closer to normal. What’s your brand’s advantage?
20 April 2020
Operating during Coronavirus is as new for your customers as it is for all of us. Every opportunity counts, while your consumers are changing their behavior simultaneously online and in real life. As these shifts continue, our reaction time as marketers is even shorter. This presents opportunities for your brand—as well as your competitor’s—to capture their attention through your digital content. And your customers want to hear from you. In fact, Kantar found that only eight percent of consumers think companies should stop advertising during the outbreak. Be present This is not the time to go dark—either in your social media channels or your website content. Consumer behavior has changed considerably on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Traffic is up, but visits are more kinetic. It’s as if our collective attention spans have gotten even shorter as we process a flood of new information. Maintaining a brand presence between customer touchpoints is always important and relevant and useful information will keep your brand in the consciousness of both consumers and search engines. Be helpful That relevant information should include ways your organization can help in these unusual times. Have you changed operating hours or procedures to serve your customers and protect them and your staff? Tell us about it. Are you pausing operations but scheduling service for the future? Let us know how your biggest fans can get to the head of the line. Do you have a product or service that is particularly useful during quarantine? By all means, tell us more! Be clear Sharing details about doing business with your brand is really only helpful if it’s relevant to the customer. You’re changing your hours to sanitize your vehicles? Lay out how that affects the customer. Having inventory issues? Communicate exactly what is in-stock, what’s not and when you expect that to change. Phone lines jammed? Share that immediately through every other channel at your disposal. People understand these are unusual times for you, too, and they’re willing to be patient when they have a clear understanding. Be consistent Don’t fall into the trap of communicating with your customers once and calling it a day. Update at least as frequently as you did during normal times. Remember, a good part of your content will be pushed down people’s news feeds by the latest news, along with graduation pictures from 1997. Stay active to stay relevant. Be a connector A major theme in much of the consumer-generated content right now is staying connected. People are feeling isolated and are eager for human contact. If possible, demonstrate how your brand brings people together by acknowledging your online community and inviting them to join with your company—and each other—in some community effort. Salute local amateur athletes who lost their spring sports season. Repost the community theater’s rehearsal video. Recognize local students or civic organizations for community service. Be grateful Remember to thank your customers—and your casual followers—for remaining with your brand through this situation. Thank them for their efforts and their sacrifice to stay healthy and help to shorten the duration. Most important, thank your employees—the line staff, technicians, phone center representatives, all of them—who one way or another are facing new challenges right now. Also remember your vendors. A little appreciation, even when you’re the one writing the checks—can go a long way to keeping your supply chain running smoothly now and when we get back to something approaching normal. This post is part of a series on marketing during and after the pandemic. To read the others, follow this link.
19 February 2020
Despite an era of digital connectivity and easy access to information, there’s still no substitute for real-life experience. We all want to see the elephant for ourselves. Or the dual-outboard 900-horsepower pontoon boat as the case may be. That’s what we saw a couple of weeks ago as our Client Renfro Productions raised the curtain on their new edition of the Ford Cincinnati Travel, Sports & Boat Show. A consumer show for outdoor enthusiasts presents the easy paradox of requiring attendees to be indoors and surrounded by tens of thousands of other people who also prefer solitude and open spaces. And yet they came. For 63 years now, this show has curated the top experts and equipment for fishing, hunting, boating, powersports, adventure travel and more from across North America. But just as important, it brings together enthusiasts, giving them the opportunity to share their knowledge, experiences and secrets. Despite all the technology, people will always want to be around people like them. We are naturally attracted to others with a shared experience (family holiday gatherings excepted). That makes the crowds of other outdoor enthusiasts a feature. Every year around Labor Day, in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, tens of thousands of people who share a different sort of common identity come together to build a city that lasts only eight days. Artists, performers, self-expressionists, individualists and myriad other non-conformists travel hundreds or even thousands of miles just to spend a week with their own tribe. Most (ahem) of what they do in the desert could just as easily be done at home. And yet they come. To belong to something they feel a part of. Like people do.
29 January 2020
Author: Natalie Shawver
In today’s world we’ve taken the very definition of multitasking to an entirely new level. We’re bingeing the latest season of The Crowne on Netflix while scrolling through our Instagram feed. We’re listening to a podcast while adding something to Facebook Marketplace. We’re downloading books from the local library and reading another on our tablet. This, of course, is on top of working full-time at a career or as a parent (or both), juggling upkeep with our house, attending the neighbor’s birthday party and somehow remembering to let the dog out. We’re exhausted. And we’re wondering how we can win our time back. Many companies have cracked the tick-tock code: Netflix tells us what we should watch next (time saved on searching); Amazon has monthly subscriptions so we’ll never run out of toilet paper (time saved on trip to grocery store); and bill payments and Rx refills have never been simpler thanks to automatic bank account deductions or reminder texts. #truelove Life seems simpler with all of these technological shortcuts … and yet we’re still running around with our proverbial heads cut off and wondering where the 25th hour in the day is. Take me for example and meet my friend Liz. And by “friend” I mean the influencer I’ve turned to (who I don’t personally know but I pretend like I do) for the past nine years when I need a decision made and relief in my brain. Chicago lifestyle blogger Liz Adams of Hello Adams Family has been on the scene since 2011. What first started as a fashion blog has turned into her full-time, focus-on-real-life account from all angles. Her transition from single-to-married woman to mother of two has shown the power of evolution at its finest—all before our very eyes. Instead of writing about what the latest spring trend in raincoats is, she serves up must-have skincare, must-try recipes and must-do activities for children. And I/we love her (and others like her) for it. We see someone else in the same place of life with the same undereye circles just trying to get through the day, and we realize that heck, if they can juggle it all, so can we. Oh, and they’re going to tell me what gifts I need to buy my husband for Christmas? Sign me up. Liz is like the equivalent of the Netflix movie recommendation in human form. And, just like I trust Netflix to know what I’ll love best, I trust Liz, too. But why? I don’t really know her. Because, simply put, she does all the heavy lifting and she gives me my time back. I don’t have to think about what to make for dinner because poof! Liz emails me a recipe every Wednesday. I don’t have to figure out which home cleaning product is the safest for my toddler because poof! Liz tells me which one is. She takes a product and makes it relatable—a product that may be hard to sell (hello CBD oil) as well as ones that fly off the shelves (bedazzled headbands). She makes me feel like I need it without being used-carsalesman-y. She makes me feel like her friend—who she is trying to help save time, too. #sharingiscaring It is this uncanny need for time saving that makes me the epitome of a sponge, soaking up every possible human advertisement thrown my way. I’m a marketer’s dream. So how can a company capitalize on overwhelmed, searching-for-extra-minutes consumers like me? They can make it easy, automated and enjoyable. They can showcase have-to-have products in my social feeds, newsletters in my inboxes with curated content, and eye-catching advertisements before my YouTube video begins. They can partner with my friends (cough cough Liz) to talk about their products in a very real way. They can catch me in the small moments I have and convert me into a sale. They can use the power of influence to capture my attention and make me part of their tribe. They can give me my time back.
23 October 2019
The hand that rocks the cradle, they say … Our mothers’ opinions become ours from a young age and when we’re old enough to have our own opinions, we often still trust that mother knows best. Or, at least she sets the starting point. So, where do today’s Millennial moms go when they need an expert opinion in these hyper-connected days? Where they’ve always gone: Other moms. For millennial moms, using social media as a way to reach out to other moms is second nature. What’s different is that instead of having just a close-knit group of mom friends in the family or the neighborhood, there are now thousands of online groups moms can join based on geography, age, special needs, interests … you name it. Every day, these groups are filled with posts by members, seeking and offering up recommendations on the best service providers, baby products, family-friendly entertainment, travel destinations and more. Millennial moms are particularly likely to trust recommendations of other parents on social media. One survey cited in Forbes showed them significantly more inclined to online referrals than even their Gen X older siblings. And these Millennial Moms control a lot of spending power, with mothers making the purchase decisions in four out of every five dollars spent on household products and services. So, as marketers, how can we make sure these uber-consumers know (and share) the advantages of what we’re offering? We need to be part of their communities, both online and in real life. That means building relationships that foster dialogue, not shouting slogans. That means listening more than you speak. We start by identifying the influencers in the market and reaching out personally to offer them something of value in their own lives. This can be a sample for trial, an experience that they can share with their own network, or even an offer they can share with their online followers and offline communities. It’s important that these interactions are conversations, not monologues. Aside from the opportunity to tell the community about your latest offering or enhancement, it’s a great opportunity to learn more about your customer and their lives. Join their communities by participating in online conversations. Your company and your brand have access to experiences from other consumers and other families that members will find useful. And when it comes to your own product, there can be no better source for how it’s best used or enjoyed. Influencers have a responsibility to their audience. The community gives them a platform. In return, members of that community rely on them to test products, try services and to share information they can use to simplify their own lives. Companies and brands that become trusted members of the community – that contribute more than just self-promotion – are gaining an advantage in earning the business of this Millennial generation. And the next one.
21 August 2019
Social media and other digital channels have given analytical marketers exactly what they’ve always wanted: more numbers to drop in a spreadsheet. I’m not dismissive. Data is very useful and important. It’s how we determine how to invest resources, where to double down, when to cut our losses, switch channels or change messages. But for a discipline that is relatively new, there already seems to be an established orthodoxy for measuring results. In just a decade, entire industry sectors have sprung up to provide real-time analytics on the number of impressions, shares, comments, reactions, new followers, audience attrition … you name it. And all of these measurements can be very helpful if, as my colleague Kyle likes to say, you ask the right questions (subtle boss shout-out). The challenge arises when the metrics themselves become the measure of success. British economist Charles Goodhart described the problem when writing about national economies, but the principal still holds true—whenever one statistical measure becomes a stand-in for evaluating the whole, it will cease to be a useful measure. This doesn’t necessarily mean that people are gaming the system. It’s simple human nature to repeat actions that are rewarded—and if moving that “Like” number one percent higher than it was last month makes the boss happy, then that’s what we’ll do. Standby for adorable puppy video in 3 … 2 … 1 … So, your team pumps out some “fresh content.” Some people like it. Some comment on it. Some share it … and all the numbers look great again. But why? And why is that better? There are situations in which the basic metrics are, indeed, solid measurement tools. If you’re marketing a mass-market product, follower and impression counts certainly factor into your evaluation. Grade-A, certified-genius-level content might make you feel good, but it’s not going to move much product if only 17 people see it. Gaining new followers may be in order. Conversely, if you’re marketing a highly specialized product or service with only a dozen or so potential users in the known universe, even a few million fanboys cheering you on in a social space won’t help if you can’t reach those key decision makers. But unless you’re a big-time professional online influencer, audience growth is likely, in and of itself, not a business objective. Most of us are in the business of marketing products and services. That’s the entire point of your brand’s social presence. By all means, keep an eye on your social metrics and pay close attention to when and how your online audience is interacting with your brand. But understand those numbers for what they are: leading indicators, not business objectives. Finding the right audience is more important to your real-world business objectives than reaching the biggest one. And even then, it really only matters when we succeed in motivating some action based on what we’ve shared. Y’know, in the real world. That’s why.
25 January 2019