Ah, graduation is over – congratulations to all of the 2014 graduates across our country! Here is a lovely quote from Shonda Rhimes’ Dartmouth Commencement speech this year that went viral:
“Be brave. Be amazing. Be worthy, and every single time you get a chance, stand up in front of people. Let them see you.”-Shonda Rhimes
The results of the #SOU2104 #Selfie Graduation initiative were awesome. Truly, pictures do tell a thousand words. Elation, authenticity, and that particular coolness that simply comes with a pair of sunglasses, a graduation hat tassle (must be an official word for that), and a strong sense of graduate pride and accomplishment were evident in the photos.
Documenting graduation via selfies was a way to involve students in celebrating their accomplishment in graduating and the initiative creates a visual record on Instagram of college completion.
This topic of – letting them see you – is quite apropos in light of this year’s controversy surrounding taking selfies at graduations. From Bryant University to the University of South Florida – many college campuses banned selfies at graduation.
I encouraged top leadership at SOU to consider the counter. Let us encourage this millennial gesture.A pitch is always in order, which is part of what I enjoy about working as a social media marketer.
The whole idea of letting them see you defines social media. Social media is all about us as the viewer witnessing the author’s participation. In life. In clothes. At a show. On vacation. Cooking. At Graduation.
UCG with strategic hashtags is streamlining the content towards particular marketing goals.
And, sure, you can hire a photographer for a job – but there’s nothing like a UCG initiative to obtain images mediated not from an outside party, but from your own demographic.
Plus, you’ll always get a swift turn around time – such as in real-time – on photos taken by and from your own demographic. That sure makes me happy!
Tracking the visual snaps and language your demo crafts on social = rich source material and inspiration for ways to conceptualize a social media campaign.
Here’s how SOU’s latest Preview Weekend Instagram Contest was conceptualized.
1. I search #SOUAshland, #SOU on twitter and insta often. “Searching often” is a very “soft” term. I’d say in truth, I obsessively track our demo. Kidding. Nope, not kidding at all.
2. I saw that many students are both snapping pics of their Acceptance Letters…and of course taking pics of their experience on Preview Day, and writing a bit about their experience. I take grabs of these posts to share with my department and other departments to keep them in the loop on the conversation on social.
3. The work I do with the Graphic Designer and Marketing Assistant is collaborative and open. I shared this snap with my Graphic Design collaborator, and he noted, “someone wrote, ‘Loving SOU.'”
Well, it just so turns out that SOU’s Preview Weekend begun on Valentine’s Day and ended the day after. Perfect. I decided to move on this and named the contest #LovingSOU Preview Weekend Instagram Contest.
4. I’m obsessed with theburninghouse.com. And I thought it would be great to do a giveaway where we took a photograph of SOU and Valentine’s Day related items…pulling from Gen Y visual culture, and illustrating what items 1 randomly selected winner would receive.
We teamed up with the Admissions Associate Director and Admissions Counselor and went to the bookstore to pick the items as a team. Each of us brought items to the table with the goal of reflecting different types of students in the objects to be shown in the promo graphic: from the athletic or sporty (water bottle, sweatshirt, cap) to the hipster (plaid scarf, sunglasses), and (hopefully) everything in-between.
The object I think truly captures the “spirit” of this campaign, is the journal with the text, “There is no set path, just follow your heart!” that the Admissions Counselor picked out. I also ran to a store off campus and found Hershes kisses, glittery sparkle hearts and leopard print socks with hearts on them. But of course.
I shared this visual template with the Graphic Designer and he snapped a few photos, laying out the items. He took a few photos with his feet in them, and I thought this was something to keep, it’s a cool way to innovate upon the uber clean look of theburninghouse.com. Feet-in-the-frame was an “accident” that in my mind truly makes this image unique. It brings the viewer into the frame and adds quirk.
5. The contest was announced at Preview Weekend. Prospective students were asked to follow SOU on twitter and instagram AND tag each photo with #lovingSOU, #SOUAshland and #PreviewWeekend.
Tagging #PreviewWeekend was essential, as prospective students who may not know about SOU may come upon the promo graphic on insta from the tags students make of the photos they take. New students may also learn about the contest via the promo graphic and messaging that includes the hash, #PreviewWeekend.
6. We received 131 photo submissions. A great number, considering the total number of Preview Weekend student attendees was close to 140 students.
7. Our winner’s photo was randomly selected and she then received her fab items. True love!
For my most recent client, Southern Oregon University, I created a UGC initiative on Instagram during the first 2 weeks of school. It was the perfect time to leverage excitement around a new school year.
The intellectual and creative capital of the faculty and the students make SOU a vital place. The ask was for the most important people on campus to document the amazing experience of a new school year AND determine the winners.
After an Instagram submission period of 2 weeks, we curated 5 images, and gave the community one week to vote for the finalists on both Instagram and Facebook. The combined community votes on both platforms determined the 2 winners.
– Create awareness around a new Instagram account and increase engagement on Facebook
– Generate school spirit by celebrating current students and faculty as media-makers and connect-in to school nostalgia by engaging parents and alumni. Engage all populations – current students, parents, faculty, alumni, and prospective students.
– Use a unified handle @souashland and hashtag #SOUAshland and require students to tag photos #SOUAshland in order to enter the giveaway to establish brand recognition and reach. There had been some confusion before I came on board for what the University twitter handle was (multiple accounts had been created). My solution was much inspired by this post from Social Media Examiner.
1. The Facebook announcement of the 5 SOU YOU Giveaway finalists received 14,912 impressions and received the highest virality (Likes, Comments, and Shares) in the history of the Facebook page. Students asking their friends to vote for + share their image to gain more votes was a key component in impression number.
2. A sense of participating in one’s community was achieved. When one’s agency is celebrated (I document my life, this is my view from here) and sense of place is celebrated (My school is awesome), retention is a likely outcome.
I received some great feedback from students when I taught a 2 hour class fall term on Social Promotions in the SOU Business School:
Pulled from both FB and Sprout Social analytics and one-to-one conversations:
– Current students and prospective students – On Instagram
– Parents, alumni, current students and prospective students – On Facebook
Remix the giveaway announcement graphic in one to two ways, but keep it recognizable (each week we’d swap out an instagram image in the the announcement card). Be mindful to not flood the feed with your promotion. Post once a week to encourage participation and keep your promotion messaging consistent.
Leverage the influence of a few key people, or as Malcolm Gladwell would say, find your Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen. And be sure to give them love along the way.
The incredible thing about being on a University campus is you have built-in brand evangelists: students, parents, faculty, alumni, and even prospective students.
The SOU Instagram Giveaway CTA was for people from our community to share their photos. It made sense to ask a few visible brand evangelists on campus to lead the way, and set the tone:
– Ask a student and faculty member active on Instagram to share a few of their own Instagram images for us to use in the promotional announcement graphic – and include their handle on the image
– Publicly thank both of them for providing their images to support the giveaway by tagging them on FB/ twitter and linking to their social properties. Back scratching. This is the SM code, key etiquette.
– Send an ask email to all faculty to share the Facebook announcement post. Succinctly ask them to support and let them know how supporting you provides clear benefits to them. See 15 shares below.
Sending an ask email is a very standard aspect of running an successful social media promotion. The goal is to educate and seduce the email recipient into taking action on your behalf in order to spread your messaging.
Perhaps not so much for this initiative as faculty as already positioned as brand evangelists, but if you’re emailing – see my post Listen, Love, and Leverage – you really want to lead with seduction. Use language to connect-in to your demo. Complement them, let them know how awesome they are, and how much you’re like them too.
This was how I got The Recessionista, a blogger with over 12,000 followers that is courted by many top fashion brands, to promote a Shoptopia Giveaway. We also had a phone call. I cannot underscore the value of face to face, voice to voice, Skype to Skype, in this digital world. Voice and facetime (in the flesh) still matters.
Work hard at sending them love, and mean it! Be innovative with your language! This hard work and authenticity really gives context and builds rapport. Which is key. Be real about it, and be on your game, please.
It’s helpful to provide pre-crafted tweets as illustrated here in my portfolio; this is something I’ve done with all blogger outreach initiatives I’ve conceptualized and managed. This keeps the giveaway/ promotion messaging streamlined. But you must say something in your copy that acknowledges that the blogger knows their community best. No-one likes it when you put words in their mouth.
Here’s a cheat sheet for you:
I’ve been asked to teach a one day social media promotions class in the SOU Business School so it’s a perfect time to do a series of blog posts on Promotions in Social Media. I moved from LA to my new town, leaving a social media teaching offer behind me, and it’s cool that I”m again in the University context. It’s a good place to be.
Whether a personal Facebook page or a brand’s Facebook page, whether a tweet or an instagram photo, I see every post on social media as an act of celebration.
Celebrating what? Celebrating the person we’d like to be…our aspirational self.
What we post on social media says something about us. Our posts say, I want you to believe this about me.
I’m celebrating what I want you to believe about me.
Here’s a post of myself – highly curated – who says who I am. Here, I share a post that says who I am. Here, I RT a tweet because I am that.
I am an awesome photographer with amazing friends. I am creative, sexy, and innovative. I am healthy, loving, and smart. I am forward thinking and the 99%. I have this information I’m going to share with you all because I’m that cool/ funny/ smart. I am, I am, I am. And I was here. Boom.
Social media is in essence celebrating a performative self. It is a total construction. That’s why we’re all so addicted. It’s fantasy and reality rolled into one. And we have total control of the message.
As a marketer, this is part of defining who your demographic is.
Yes, what does your demographic believe?
And most importantly, who do they want to be?
Make a collage. Pull quotes. Make it real. Ask them questions on FB to be sure you are right. Assume nothing. Your community will ultimately tell you if you’re on. When your content resonates on social media, your community will like, comment, share, heart, RT, and reply. It’s call and response. The responsibiltiy is all yours to be true to your audience and your analytics do not lie.
Simon Sinek asks every marketer to start with why.
The golden circle
Why: As a brand, what’s your purpose, what’s your cause, what’s your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning and why should anyone care? What do you believe?
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. The goal is not to sell to people who need what you have, the goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.”
I put this in the context of celebration.
We celebrate the type of person who….
We celebrate ways of living that include…
We celebrate different aspects of ….
Let this drive your messaging and the content you create.
Let celebration to be the neon thread that moves through the How and the What that you do.
Welcome to my life, called Building a Brand 101. As a freelancer, and especially in social, you jump onto the sand, create a castle, and then the waves come in and the project’s over. Super. Zen. I feel lucky that for the past year now I have had so much work coming my way, that I’ve had to turn clients away. It’s a good feeling.
Image: Creative Commons Net Diva
Although for me I lament a bit when a project is over – as I’ve connected with a community and feel I know them, know what resonates…The great thing is with each job, you step away with a perfected content calendar and voice guide ideas, and a perfected list of objectives and questions to ask as you once again hit the sand running. No, don’t run. Walk slowly…at least at the start. Which frankly, I do find to be a challenge.
Laying the Foundation
For Tier 1, select ONLY 3 platforms based on where your demographic plays, then define the objective of each platform, then perfect the voice on each platform. It’s OK if this takes some time. You have a lot of listening to do. Both to your client and their needs, and also what’s going on in the social space.
Once you’ve identified your demographic, Research what platforms they are using
Research where your target demographic is playing by not only looking at what they’re doing on your current social properties, but by diving deep into what your client’s top-tier competition is doing.
ASK: If your brand could be any brand besides itself, who would it like to be?
Get the answer, and then stalk that brand and their competition like nobody’s business and see what platforms get the most engagement. If your client does not even know who their competition is or how to position themselves (it’s been known to happen) do your own research. Forbes lists are great for that.
Just go for the Gold. Barney’s over Ross. Louboutins over Aldo. Yale over…You get the picture. It’s not because I’m a snob. I’ve found amazing knock-offs at Ross. But that’s the point. Everything as far as I’m concerned in marketing is aspirational. We all want THE BEST. So, just go and see what Apple is doing. And DONT copy, do your own innovation from there. Clearly they’re doing something right by creating what I like to call…an imprint identity.
Select your platforms
Often, your client will want to be on Pinterest, Vine, Instagram, Google + LinkedIn and of course Facebook right away. NEVER do this. Did I say NEVER do it? Never, just don’t. For your own sanity. Why? Each platform is like a little baby. It needs to be fed. Content. It needs to be listened to. It needs to be monitored. You get the idea. And I get where they’re coming from. They want to get the word out. If too many platforms are live, the messaging becomes diluted. Use FlowChart or another visual tool to map out the flow of your messaging. Some platforms are used to “get the word out” and others, are actually to pull the people in.
Often, you may love a certain platform for an intuitive design or the fact that it offers video. You may love Vine, but is your demo playing there? What is their technical bandwidth?
There are ancillary platforms to leverage, such as If you wanted to create a SoundCloud Playlist, or even begin playing with Vine, it is OK- as long as your 3 primary platforms are clearly defined and in full swing. And with a clear objective in mind – to gain more shares and RTs and likes.
If you’re stepping into a project with platforms already set up, be sure and check the basics like pushing tweets to FB or vice versa. This happened to me today, and it was disturbing, as I had already revoked the twitter to FB. Double check, especially in the beginning. Just don’t syndicate content across your social channels.
Once you determine what the important features of your product are and why your consumer will want your product, Perfect the objective of the platform itself
As stated in a previous post, RTs and SHARES are the ultimate goal on social. We’re cool with the friends and tweeps we have, we LOVE them, but we’re really interested in their hot friends. So we want to utilize each platform in order to inspire this type of word-of-mouth engagement.
It’s essential that you post with an objective, yes, it’s to “create a conversation,” yes, it’s to “be authentic” (although that’s a whole other convo)..but WHY these platforms?
Things to think about:
Facebook: Use Facebook to highlight your brand’s unique culture and vision. It’s about posting images and videos, and linking out to content to establish your brand as a go-to for information your demo craves.
It’s also great for lead generation. Want a new email list? Run a promotion. It’s also good as a centralized content funnel.
We use Facebook to direct traffic from this platform to information that is generated from you or reflects your brilliance – you will link to videos, the e-commerce site, to blog content (generated in-house or directed to a source you want to align your brand with by sharing their content), or perhaps to departments in the organization you are speaking from the voice of. More on the Content Calendar later. And yes, FB is key in establishing a connection – and a conversation – with your demo.
Twitter: Is a microblogging platform, is global, real-time, and über performative. It’s like a cocktail party on the world’s stage. Everybody’s watching. It’s about pulling people in towards you by tweeting out content that reflects the value of your organization. Once they’ve been pulled in, they will want to share your content.
The objective on twitter is to get your brand’s handle on the radar of key influencers by using their handles in your tweets and mobilize brand evangelists to retweet or reply to your messaging. When your key influencer likes a post on your Facebook page, that’s great but the event happens within a container, a closed system of Facebook. Your brand evangelist’s friends may see that they ‘liked’ a post of yours, but then that interaction is quickly swept away in the feed. When your key influencer or brand evangelist RTs your content or replies to you on twitter, all of their friends see your twitter handle and the conversation taking place, and this interaction claims a larger residency – as the convo remains on their twitter page for a longer duration, and your handle is not hidden.
Your Influencer list will drive engagement here. If your messaging is strong and consistent and has VALUE, you can get on the radar of your ideal brand/influencer/ tastemaker/ thoughtleader. Using EdgeRank strategies is useful in this space, but implement creatively. You can get on the radar of key influencers on FB as well, even posting to their page (despite being pushed to that annoying box on the side), but in my experience, the response on FB is much, much slower.
Instagram: Images, images, images. Tell the story of your brand.Often this platform is used to reflect a RT behind-the-scenes story of your organization or brand.
Pinterest: The land of aspiration. We re-pin because we want to be that, do that, have that.
Tumblr: This is a good space to visually display images. It can also be used as a content funnel and your content can be reblogged. I think this space works best for social critique and meme or animated gif collecting.
Perfect the voice on each platform.
Although your Voice Guide will have consistency across channels (emoticons or no? abbreviations or exclamation points or no?) – you will need to learn the currency on each platform. What hashtags is your demographic currently using? Are the hashtags the smartest choices? Could you perfect or innovate within and/or outside the language that’s currently being used? Who are your tweeps RTing…find out why. What influencers can you identify on each platform that you’d like RTing and Sharing your content? Influencer Lists in another blog. This gets into The Holy Grail. More on that later.
Even though your content calendar may have the same content going out at 10am on both FB and twitter – you must craft messaging according to how content is “read” on each platform. And especially for twitter – because it often has a totally different objective than FB in which case you will be dropping in hashtags and handles that may not be relevant on FB. Though, it is important to use hashtags on FB now.
To be an effective social media manager, you’ve got to have your social media strategy in place. Listen, Love, and Leverage are the stages I’ve named and step through with all new clients. It’s a great way to introduce clients to the way I work, and step them through how I’ll be using social media to meet and exceed their unique goals.
Listen – Be it on Facebook or Twitter, the first rule is to listen. Listen and identify what topics have currency with your community. Your social media manager has to have the ability to connect in to the feelings and wants of your brand’s particular demographic. For me, listening informs much of the messaging and other content I generate or find.
With twitter – click on the @connect tab to see who is tweeting you – i.e. – wanting to get on your radar. Also check the #discover tab to see what hashtags people are using to connect with your brand. Use Facebook Insights to help you dial into the demographic and most importantly, what has the highest virality. Use deeper and more targeted tools such as Klout, wefollow, commun.it, and the heavy hitters if your budget allows – such as Radian6. Identifying is about understanding who your community is.
Love – This engagement phase includes commenting and direct messaging on Facebook, and retweeting, favoriting, and replying other people’s posts. You must maintain some element of exclusivity. Who you decide to engage with has much to do with if they have the kind of influence you are seeking.You have to figure out who is worth your time to love. So true, so true.
Leverage – The goal of social media is to authentically connect with your community and at the same time expand your brand’s message. This is the time when you propose an ask to someone (most likely a high influencer) you have been “loving.” After your relationship/rapport is established, you’ll request a guest blog post, or ask this influencer to do a “shout out” on your behalf or support a marketing initiative your brand is launching. I’ll scratch your back, if you scratch mine is the subtext of much that goes on in social media.
Decisions – From success stories on fitness Moms who have lost weight by eating healthy protein bars, to stories about fierce feminist bloggers, to generating buzz around a beta launch of an online learning application – if these posts or features are getting the most likes, shares, retweets, and comments on Facebook or Twitter, it’s a cue from your community for your social media manager and marketing team to find, create, and promote more content like this. Analytics are are the roadmap for your content creation.
Details – You must map it out – your editorial calendar, your weekly messaging, your month’s themes, your promotions, and goals related to when influencers will be identified and leveraged – all the while knowing and being ok with the reality that social media is rooted in real-time, immediate call and response.
Demands – Strategy, verve, and spontaneity are all central to social media. What this means is that social media is fast and unpredictable. You have to establish in advance how to handle negative posts (do you delete them or leave them?), if posts will happen on the weekends, and what each brand’s standards are for how long is too long for a post to go unanswered, and how many posts should be made daily. I have found that this varies from brand and demographic.