Get Social

Archive for the ‘branding’ Category

So, we’ve established that Instagram is a fun photo-sharing tool in use by some killer brands (recently, Pitchfork, Matador, Moo, and my brand-crush the Level Up), and now I’m thinking I haven’t seen Soundtracking used this way (peep the official page here), and it may deserve its fifteen minutes. The interface is similar enough to Instagram, with basic menu functions allowing one to follow a user, change his/her profile photo, and scan a recent feed of “soundtracked” songs. Obviously, the app pushes to Facebook and Twitter, too. So, you key in the song you’re listening to or have the program identify it (think Shazam or my preferred Soundhound), and can soundtrack your life, along with your location and a relevant photo. Nifty? Yeah, I can dig this.

I use the app occasionally, when I’m out and about or driving (oops) and want to capture a nifty song. It’s helped me ID new music and also allows me to share with the internet collective that I think, at this exact moment, everyone damn well ought to be grooving along to ‘Everyday is like Sunday.’But the huge differentiator I’m highlighting between Soundtracking and Instagram is I’ve yet to see brands use it.

Why not? Well, it’s going to mean you’re sharing (and endorsing, to some extent) third party content. You may be building a fan base skewed to certain musical tastes, which may not be ideal. But I have to say, there has to be a brand or 100 out there that could benefit from this kinda of network. Maybe it’s that chic Newbury Street boutique, soundtracking their dressing room sounds, or, hell, even the Gap could fall into this kind of sharing to build a network. I haven’t done the necessary focus groups, but I think people like music and will link it with images, and that could even lead to songs or artists triggering a customer’s subconscious consideration of the brand that posts it.

I’m not handling marketing efforts for any clients in-house, so I can’t pick up on the office or team vibe and put this idea to the test. My day job, constantly plugged into Pandora and various XM radio, would be an awesome guinea pig; what if we soundtrack employees’ daily favorites?

Somebody, try it before I get the chance. Or let me know if it’s happening. As Madonna would say, music makes the people come together. Yeah. So can it cause them to rally around the right brands? I think so.

Advertisements

The adoption by the Boston Red Sox to twitter contests to score new followers has gotten me thinking about real time, location-based instaoffers. (Yup, just made up a term and a word).The latest by the Boston sports franchise is #tweetmyseat, offering the first tweeter to share his/her location along with a photo of the batter a gift basket. Cool concept, and I’m all over this when I hit Fenway on Sunday (ssh, don’t tell Mom)..but I’m curious if these schemes will offer long-term follower loyalty.

In a similar vein, @BostonTweet offers “find it” contests, sharing a picture of a gift certificate at a location and offering it up to his 20,000+ followers. They’re infrequent and random. Local Social‘s followed suit and used the planted gift card concept to drive followers of UBurger, G’vanni’s, and others to their locations to hunt down freebies.

Are these brands seeing loyalty as a result of these giveaways? Or is this more a viable strategy to drum up new interest rapidly?

We’re seeing a closer-knit brand network as a result of these promotions, and a quick surge in (inter)activity on their online feeds. But to really drive awareness and spread the word about our brands, we’re going to need to leverage some kind of cross-network promotional strategy. We’re working on it. Stay tuned.

These beauties are mine, and I can thank the power of brand influence, technology on the go, and my complete inability to pass by the Kate Spade store on Newbury Street and not go in. I first saw this pair of must-have patent leather, pointy-toed, Mary Jane-inspired, rubber-soled flats on their Instagram feed.

If you’re not familiar with the program, Instagram is a mobile app for the iPhone that allows you to snap an image, apply one of a handful (maybe 15 filters), and share with a tagged location and comment via Facebook, Twitter, or email. The photo is also saved on your phone. Users who opt to follow you (Twitter style, no accepting necessary) see your photos in a news feed stream and can like and comment on them. The service has come under some scrutiny for its liberal terms of service (read: others can use your images royalty free and without notice to you), but I still snap shots of Woofie on the go without fear of the loss of my intellectual property. When I see brands such as Kate Spade, the Boston Celtics, and  Starbucks hopping on the bandwagon, though, I’m not too worried– and I love seeing brands share their products and industry events with followers through images.

So, back to the shoes. Scrolling through my feed and wiping the drool away from my lips as I passed Chobani and Chow, I meet the Elena flat. You can’t even find it on their website yet, but I was prompted to search because, voila!, here was a product I could really use, and I wanted to find the absurd price. I liked them enough to comment on the Instagram shot. (PS, comments, likes, and new followers are pushed to your phone, but I don’t think anybody’s got a solution that syncs these updates with other network activity a la Echofon.) Uh oh. Once you engage in conversation with a brand over an item, you’re done. You will end up with it– just ask everyone I discuss the merits of a burger and frappe with over on the UBurger twitter feed.

By a destined twist of fate, I walked down Newbury Street today and passed the store. I wondered if they had The Shoes. We crossed the street and went in. They had The Shoes. The Shoes cost a cool $198, a bit more than I’d want to spend for footwear that I intend to wear into the fall, but a bit less than I’ve spent at the same store for some slingbacks I couldn’t live without. The sales girl sealed the deal, recounting to me that she has a pair and loves them, that the rubber sole is durable, that they are a solid city shoe. I made the purchase and happily left the store.

This transaction started long before I set foot in the store, or approached an employee for my size to try on. One night, waiting for someone or something, I casually scrolled by this product. It was something I’d been seeking and wanted and was too damn lazy to commit to shopping for. Buying this product would solve a problem (namely, that I buy cheap black flats every 5 months or so when my old pair wears through), and this brand carries influence and is reputable in my eyes for being quality. The trendiness of their product as well as their marketing team, who is heavily active on Twitter and  Instagram, wins me over as well.

Of course, the attention at the store was appreciated, but I was sold from the second I saw that photo in my Instagram feed.

“Please do not take offense, but you haven’t branded yourself.”

This is an actual quotation from a perspective client email. A start up man himself, I should have known something like this was coming after an 8 pm conference call that same evening in which he asked , “So, do you have an LLC or what?”(The answer is yes, by the way, we’ve formed Local Social as an LLC.)  But enough overt ranting. What I wanted to address here is 1)what components of our business are branded and 2) explain why I’m not overly concerned with overtly branding our type of venture yet .

I can’t help but think of the etymology of the verb “to brand,” and documentary footage of livestock being stamped with an insignia or marker number comes to mind. Obviously, branding in a business marketing sense is more fluid; companies can reinvent their images as core products change, market demands fluctuate, or new management comes on  board. Still, I’m being very deliberate– and  likely all too meta– about how to brand Local Social. First, we started with some key words and phrases that came to mind:

* boutique, smart, content, writers, marketing, social, social media, restaurants, promotions, daily deals, media, PR, consultant, young, hip, in-the-know, savvy, media, bold, experimental, grounded, technical, sales, growth*

I could name more, but I’ll stop there. There are core competencies and value adds we bring to the table. We’re smart and versatile across a variety of tools, networks, and industries.

I’ve given myself an informative email signature that shares Local Social’s relevant presence on the web(see this post for the visual). I’ve given myself the title of “Socialite,” a fancy way of saying “brand manager.” I’ve written a kit that bundles our services with pricing that has a clear, branded tone, incorporating the keywords listed above.

I stressed to this person and others that we haven’t “gone 100% public” with our branding. You can follow us on Twitter, but I don’t seek out new handles to follow and don’t target potential clients through that channel at this time. We’re merely a presence that shares useful articles I find around the web and posts links to this blog. When I gain a new follower from these efforts, I follow back. It’s all very organic. This blog, I  hope, brands us. And yes, I’ve changed the template three times. And we do not yet have a logo. And we don’t have a website, but we have the domain, so we have professional email accounts. And, if anyone’s skeptical about us after viewing some client work and our kit and isn’t convinced,  share my resume as more collateral to speak to my experience.

And not only am I justifying here that I have begun to brand Local Social, but that it’s not all 100% necessary at the very beginning. We’re thankful to the awesome clients we have who believe in us, and to anyone reading my ramblings as we develop our idea into that scary five-letter word.

As a business consultant constantly considering scaling and always re-evaluating roles, it’s been on my mind lately if our Local Social salespeople should stick to just sales. In my own experience, I look back to my first job out of college, in B2B market intelligence, where I was constantly frustrated that I had so many other talents and interests but was forced to stick to my 150+ cold calls per day. Then, I think about how happy I’ve been with start ups like CoupMe, where my focus shifted constantly and I was responsible for sales, but had other tasks on my plate too– and a good chunk of “sales” meant account management and client services, really. In the case of the former, I see how I benefited the company, but I left after 8 months from burning out and constantly exceeding my previous milestones in terms of sheer volume and engagement to challenge myself. So, net unsuccessful. In the latter, I see how I benefited the company by sharing a variety of skills, but at a time when the need was for sales, sales, sales, and the team wasn’t delivering, my full attention to selling could have made a significant difference. So, net unsuccessful again.

There’s a pretty clear dichotomy here; on the one hand, we have the argument that sales people should stick to a singular task. Sales is mentally taxing, and demands that an individual be focused on your business’ value adds, relevance in the industry, and economic need to keep selling itself to stay profitable (and keep a team employed). I’d say 95% of the sales people I’ve worked alongside are good at talking to people, gauging emotions and timing, and have the schedule flexibility to put their time in where it’s needed. Maybe they take that 20 minute bitch break at 3:30 pm, but they’re also picking up the phone at 8 to place that call back that a gatekeeper demanded. Those 95% are also not people I felt were better suited to complete other tasks. I wasn’t thinking, Bob’s such a witty writer; it’s too bad he can’t contribute copy or, I wish Susan managed vendor payments since she has a strong administrative background. Now, I’m a 20-something Bostonian who has shied away from super corporate environments, and I’m not going to say I can speak for everyone. But, in my experience, I’ve met very few sales people who I feel are wasting a different talent.

On the other, we have someone like myself. In the case of Local Social, we are two young professionals starting a brand without a budget and without the desire to expand so quickly that we haven’t developed a demand for our services before we build a team. Personally, I’ve backed off sales, because it’s not my strength(and I’m so concerned with hitting financial milestones that I’m not negotiating contracts well), and it is my bias that sales should be a completely separate responsibility. I’m happy to sell our brand in a different way; while I’m not picking up the phone and convincing local business owners to give us a try, I’m locking down clients through network referrals, and selling our services through the client work we do and the (hopefully) useful content posted to our blog.

So, sorry for another “all about me” post. We’re striving to be an industry resource, however, and points on how to delegate workload for an itsy-bitsy new venture are quite relevant. If I’ve given you any insight to take away and consider, then I’m meeting my milestones here. [Source]

[Source]

As a way to strengthen our business and value add to clients, we’ve been mulling over what exactly makes us quality social media marketers; what skills, traits, and experience do we possess that make us successful? As we consider expansion and to provide you with some helpful tips on how to break into social successfully, here are a few competencies this mythical Social Media “Consultant” or “Expert” (note I didn’t say “Guru” or “Ninja”– enough of that already!) should possess:

  • A good writer.  Seems like everybody’s start up blog is championing the merits of those who can write, and therefore, communicate. My recent read, Rework, even goes so far as to say it makes sense to hire people who possess basic competencies such as the ability to write well over bringing on individuals to fit an “inside the box” job description. Why does your social expert need to write well? No brainer, right? Words are his/her ammo to post content to blogs, Facebook, Twitter, forums, wherever, and it’s certainly embarrassing to get a tweet like this. More than someone who can contract words properly, your social media marketer is first and foremost a writer who can 1) maintain a consistent brand voice while still adding personality, 2)modify content to fit various character limits in a sensible way, 3)be comfortable writing in longer form (i.e. blogs) but understand the demand for “one stop shop” quick posts à la Twitter’s  micro blog.
  • Organized. I was that girl in high school who made solid plans for the upcoming weekend on Monday to lock in my calendar, and completed first drafts of English papers ahead of the due date. I’m still that girl who booked a B&B in Newport(have a look-see! looks delightful, doesn’t it) for the end of July. I’m also now the girl who balances multiple clients’ social media channels and has set times to check in for each client, receives and reviews daily brand Google Alerts, and checks in at the end of each week with clients for weekly summary reports.  Find someone who’s constantly meeting (and exceeding!) deadlines, since managing social is a round-the-clock responsibility and requires someone who can schedule this time and balance it among other duties.
  • Passionate about your brand. A couple points here. I’m looking for a full-time gig, and I do not apply to brands hiring in my area of interest (social media) but whose brand doesn’t excite me(sorry, Carbonite). Nothing against this brand, or any other that wouldn’t prompt me to leap out of bed to get to work every morning, but I’m so much more productive for my clients because I’ve selected ones that speak to my interests– dining out, fitness, and pets, for example. I believe in their missions, and can work well with the owners and management teams involved. Marketing is, after all, a collaborative effort. That entry-level receptionist who sends you random emails about industry events, that barista who’s in the know about other locally owned spots, or the account coordinator who’s sharing articles on the competition to stay up to speed? Those are the individuals to seek out and work in some extra responsibility making your brand known.
  • A quick (and thoughtful!) decision maker. Social is a job that doesn’t keep business hours, and any good employee or consultant is aware of this fact and is plugged in to your brand during off hours. When your store is closed or the executives have taken off for the long weekend, this person is still monitoring brand mentions and responding to inquiries. Find someone with whom you trust decisions and can think for him/herself. Surrendering complete control of your branding can be a scary thing, but the right individual will answer those tough questions and think on the fly.

Any other qualities we missed? What makes you successful as a social media marketer, or what are the traits that led you to hire someone for that role?

This seems so basic, but if you’re trying to spread the word about yourself or your brand, do you have an interactive, visually pleasing signature?

I’m a fan of the (free) WiseStamp myself. It’s a browser-based plugin (meaning you need to install it on all machines you use; it’s not traveling with your Gmail account) that allows you to customize the font and color of your signature and add links to relevant social networks. Share your Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Yelp, WordPress, Youtube…even Etsy, Ebay, and Amazon profiles. You can use those cute little icons, or text, or both. Who doesn’t need fun colors added to his/her signature?