Four Ways Social Media Professionals Can be More Effective

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This article was originally published by Front Office Sports. 

Social media marketing strategy and planning have come a long way since the “Wild West” days of the early 2000s. Gone are the days of doing social media just to do social media. You can’t say you have a Facebook page, or Instagram and Twitter account and not build a strategy around them.

You may be surprised to find that PR and #smsports pros still struggle with certain aspects of social media. Whether it is trouble showing ROI, lack of support or resources, or frustrations with the ever-changing platforms that exist.

All of these factors play in to a team, company or brand having to constantly re-evaluate their social media strategies and goals.

In a recent dialogue with #smports and #highered pro Chris Yandle, he brought up some great points about some of the hardest elements that PR pros struggle with when it comes to social media.

His quote was perfect . . . “Too many PR people treat social media like a megaphone rather then a conversation.” That is so spot on. Many brands and companies still treat social like a one way conversation. Using the old “spray and pray” method, they just shout their messaging and don’t try to make their content “social” at all.

So, when trying to make sense of how PR pros can get better, Chris listed four elements they need to concentrate on more to be effective. Allow me to elaborate on Yandle’s thoughts and present the four ways social media pros can be more effective on social media.

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Strategy

I’ll say it again, you can’t just do social media to do social media. It’s not a place to just dump press releases and news stories. It’s not a place where you consistently cross link to content from other platforms and not make it unique. Social media has to tie in to your overall goals. It has to help answer the “why” or the “what” behind your goals.

It has to help serve a purpose. What are you trying to accomplish? What are your growth goals? What are your revenue goals? Do you want more fan engagement? What content are fans telling you they want? You have to build a strategy to help achieve these goals with social media. I know for a fact that companies and athletic departments are filled with many talented leaders and thinkers. Get them together and build a comprehensive strategy that ties social media to your business goals.

Planning

Once you have a sound social strategy that aligns with your goals, you must develop a plan to execute said strategy. Too many people fall into the trap of figuring out the “why” and “what” behind their social efforts, but then fail to plan accordingly and fall into the same pattern of content. Planning also means you need to consistently evaluate your reporting data and analytics.

You know what they say . . . “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” You must be diligent in your reporting and evaluate the success of your plans with data. Don’t be afraid to test and learn, but always evaluate what is working with data-based decisions.

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Content Curation

I’m sure you’ve heard this term thrown about plenty, but how many PR and #smsports pros actually know what it is or how it is beneficial? Content curation is the process of gathering information relevant to a particular topic or area of interest.

A good PR strategy must include organizing and sharing the best and most relevant content on a specific issue. This is content curation. What are your fans saying about your team or brand? Can it be leveraged to help tell your story? What are the popular subjects being discussed in your subject matter area? How can you position yourself in that space? A good content curation process will definitely help set your social media apart from your competitors.

Being Social

You would think being social on social media is a given. You’d be wrong. I can’t echo Yandle’s thoughts enough, that “too many people treat social media like a megaphone and not a conference call.” There are so many opportunities on social media to interact and delight your fans or targeted personas by listening and responding to them. Be authentic. Tell stories. Ask questions. Listen and respond.

Be sure to track the conversation around specific phrases or words that are important to your company. Then leverage them to discover opportunities on how to better serve your targets and create better content for them. You’ll be impressed at how your platforms will grow in both audience size and engagement when you are truly social and conversational with your content.

We all should have a goal of getting better everyday. Try to something new. Inch closer to those campaign goals. Evaluate your data and see what’s working. Network and meet someone new. Constantly strive for improvement.

All of these things should be considered when you’re working through your social media strategy. By thinking strategically about social, you’ll be able to impress your bosses who may still not “get it.” You will not only be able to show them the plans in place to succeed, but the results they want to see that affect their bottom line. You can’t ask for much more than that can you?

 

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Snapchat Is A Toy

I’m taking a slight break from my mindfulness and career development posts to talk about a subject which I hope generates some debate for those in the #sportsbiz, marketing and advertising worlds. I want to talk Snapchat. Specifically, I want to talk Snapchat as a marketing and advertising tool.

Why? Because I’m a long time marketer and communicator whose career has taken place both pre-social media and post-social media. I also think a lot of marketers are still trying to figure out what numbers matter and what platforms make sense for their brands.

But one thing I’ve remained pretty adamant about is that . . . Snapchat is a toy. What do I mean by that? Let me explain.

One of my twitter acquaintances (Thanks Sean!) used that phrase recently and it stuck with me. I’ve always had a hard time articulating why I didn’t think Snap needed to be obsessed over. And this phrase summed it up at a basic level.

The phrase came up again between us recently after my Twitter feed had automated a post from the Hootsuite blog debating Snapchat vs. Instagram. Sean challenged again me with this thought . . . “Who has the analytics?”

I totally agreed with his point. What are you measuring? What goals can be considered measurable? Are those measurables what really matter? How do you get access to that data? Of all the platforms, Snapchat analytics seem the hardest to track down and to measure.

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Millennials and GenXers alike both use Snapchat at a high rate, there is no denying that. The latest figures from May of 2017 show Snapchat has 42 million monthly active users. That’s a pretty big number and one that has marketers and advertisers salivating.

But I still contend that Snapchat is an app used for one-to-one interactions between close friends or a small group of friends. I’m also willing to bet that most of those users don’t want to see ads in an environment set up so intimately.

Because marketers ruin everything, we know there are ads on Snapchat. Surely you’re like me and can obviously tell when you’re viewing a series of stories and a then “story” appears that is ad. The one I see a lot is for “lower my bills” or “15-year vs. 30-year mortgage.” First, that shows I’m old if I’m getting ads served to me about bills and house payments! Second, though creatively filmed, the “stories” are pretty easily detected as ads and I click past them.

This is why I feel if you’re looking for social platforms on which to run advertising or marketing campaigns, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are still the best place to spend your budget dollars. In my opinion, ads on these sites fit better natively and are much less intrusive.

We need more ads that create better experiences, that are relevant, don’t interrupt and add value. Instagram provides a native experience, integrating links and calls to action via the direct message feature, bio section or through posts on a brand’s page. I continually get questions on how to make Snaps actionable or tie them to concrete business goals via some sort of CTA.

You can also target much better and get better data to measure an ads effectiveness. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter allow you to see real measurables which your team has derermined, or will determine, important. I’m dubious you can get the same from Snapchat currently.

People can say that Instagram and Facebook are copying all of Snapchat’s best features to stay relevant. So what if they are? Those sites have way more active daily and monthly use and people are already familiar with how to navigate those platforms.

That’s another reason why I believe those sites are a better place to spend your ad dollars. I’ve had more than one close friend, family member, fellow marketing professional and agency partner tell me that with Instagram stories being rolled out along with other advertising features, Instagram is becoming a top platform for them to reach their target personas.

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Snapchat is a toy. Is that a bad thing? No. Does that mean that you can’t enjoy it? No, that’s what toys are meant for. But, what I’m trying to say is that Snapchat isn’t the platform for everyone to obsess over if you can spend your ad dollars smarter in other areas.

I have more thoughts on this topic, but I’ll save those for future blogs. However, I wanted to provide you a glimpse of some of my thoughts on one of today’s most pressing marketing and #sportsbiz topics.

Please let me know what else you’d like me to share or discuss. And I know you will have some thoughts for me on this specific topic, so please feel free to comment below, give me a shout on Twitter, or shoot me an email.

 

 

10 Apps Millennials Actually Use

There are countless mobile apps on the market today. Just visit the App Store or Google Play and you could spend countless hours scrolling through apps of many kinds. When it comes to apps for higher education, people tend to think of just ways apps can be used in the classroom or for curriculum, but that’s not all there is to it.

I know there are many other helpful apps out there that today’s college students can’t live without. How do I know this? Well, I polled a current crop of interns and part-time workers, most of whom are recent graduates or current students.

The apps listed below were unanimously used by our group of millennials. We will call it our list of the 10 apps college students actually use. I guess you could say they couldn’t survive college in today’s atmosphere without them.

University App – It doesn’t matter what college or university you attend; it will have an official app you can download to your phone. In our case, our group unanimously used the Auburn University app to stay up to date with what was happening in and around campus. Most apps also allow you to view your schedule and grades, keep up with news and events, and look up contact information for students and faculty.

Transit App – Likewise with University App, our entire group used the app that helped them track the campus transit system. Auburn’s app provides real-time location and next stop information as well as a small map for all active vehicles and routes. You can even access announcements that might impact your ride.

Moodle/Blackboard/Canvas – These learning management apps are all similar and serve virtually the same purpose, a way for you to track and stay current with your curriculum, courses and grades anywhere you go. Particularly, Auburn uses Canvas which includes course materials, including syllabi, lecture notes or slides, assignment submissions, files and links to external sources, and audio-video content.

Amazon Prime Student – Our millennial workers all took advantage of the discounts available on Amazon Prime. With the “Student” program you receive a 6-month Free trial that includes Free Two-Day Shipping on eligible purchases. You’ll also receive access to unlimited photo storage through Prime Photos, as well as Student-exclusive deals and discounts. After your 6-month free trial ends, your Prime Student membership makes you eligible to receive 50% off Amazon Prime, including all Prime benefits, for up to four years or until you are no longer a student. Sounds like a pretty good deal for the ever-frugal college student.

Venmo – Venmo is a free application that links your device with your bank account to make it easier for you to pay back money without having to deal with cash. With its help, you can share your payments with friends, collect money from people who owe it to you, pay your bills, and much more.

GroupMe – GroupMe is the free group messaging app that acts as a private chat room for your small group. Our millennials proclaimed this app essential for coordinating group projects in order to schedule meetings and update responsibilities, etc. when collaborating on a project. The app allows for sharing videos, photos, emojis, your location and even direct messages. Another plus, the app is available on both iOS and Android, eliminating the possibility for Android group members to be left out of an iMessage group text.

Google Docs – Google Docs is also the most commonly used file sharing app among our young workers. Google Docs allows users to create and edit group documents whenever and wherever, in real time. Editing permissions allow those with access to edit and style documents and all changes are instantly viewable to everyone with access to the document. We were told that students today aren’t sure how they’d get group projects done without the real-time collaboration of Google Docs.

Quizlet – This online learning tool is essentially a memorization aid. It lets users create “sets” of terms customized for their own needs. These sets of terms can then be studied under several study modes. The most popular study mode for our team was “flash cards.” In it, users are shown a “card” for each term. Users can click to flip over the card, or use their arrow keys, and see the definition for that term.

Chegg – Chegg is a multi-faceted app that featured textbook rentals, homework help, and online tutoring. While not a free app, Chegg was made to seem invaluable by the majority of our team members. It allows you to connect with tutors instantly, as well as get instant answers to a variety of educational questions. Step-by-step textbook solutions for your hardest classes are also easily available.

TinyScan/Scannable – These apps, essentially the same but one’s for Android and one’s for iOS, turn your smart phone into a mini scanner for documents, photos, receipts and other texts. With TinyScan, you can scan your documents, like your classmate’s notes on a lecture you missed, at anywhere and store or email them as PDF files. Sending and exchanging PDF files can sometimes be cumbersome, or not achievable at all, on many smart phones. These apps simplify document delivery and were used by more than half of our current staff.

It’s funny, when researching other articles for this piece, we asked our team members if they thought the apps listed in those pieces were accurate or even representative of today’s student. The majority of them said no. In fact, most apps listed drew blank stares or looks of bewilderment.

My goal with this list was to paint a more accurate representation of the 10 apps college students actually use to navigate today’s collegiate landscape. In most cases, the millennial workers said these were the apps a college student can’t live without.

So, let’s consider this the definitive article on the subject shall we? 

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This blog was originally posted by Verge Pipe Media. 

How to Leverage Snapchat Geofilters

It seems like each day we see an article in the Verge Pipe Media Twitter feed or on our Facebook discussing “How Marketers Can Leverage Snapchat” or “Snapchat: What You Need to Know.” Hell, even in 2014 Advertising Ade published “Thinking of Snapchat Advertising? Snap out of It.” So, we’re not exactly wading into virgin territory here.

However, we wanted to take a slightly different angle and present a first-person perspective, so to speak, of what we have “tested and learned” with Snapchat in recent weeks. You’ve no doubt read and seen all the stats. But, we’d like to present a real life case study in what we at Verge Pipe Media has learned and hope to learn in the coming months.

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Our Inspiration 

I will admit I’m not the best “Snapchatters.” They’ve grasped the basics of sending personal, one-to-one, snaps to their friends. But, posting to their stories is still a work in progress. They both like to think they could produce enough content for their stories as Gary Vaynerchuk, but that dude is one-of-a-kind.

His method however, is one that they think could work for Verge Pipe Media in the long term. So, our first step was to ask everyone on our team to follow Gary on Snapchat. It was the first “staff homework” assignment of the spring semester. We wanted everyone to get an idea of what kind of content could work on VPM stories. We also thought we’d stop getting blank stares when Tod would say stories can help us “pull back the curtain.”

We always get asked by potential employees, “What’s a typical day like at Verge Pipe Media?” The standard answer is, “There is no typical day at Verge Pipe Media.” And that’s true. We hoped to show, via Snapchat stories, what goes on during these not-so-typical days. We feel that there can be tremendous potential for Snapchat as an intern recruitment tool. Now, we just have to stay consistent and work to increase our followers.

What We’ve Done

Staying consistent is our biggest challenge at the moment. In order to grow organically, we know that creating valuable content each day is important. This takes a lot of effort and will be worth it (the stats are proving it), but we’re still refining a strategy to make this possible. While our consistency may still need some work, we’ve worked really hard to cross-promote our presence on other social media channels.

Snapchat has made it easier to add new users in recent months, so any place we can use the “Add Me URL” we try to as much as possible. We schedule at least one tweet per day (sometimes more) with a message about adding us to Snapchat with this easy to use link.

We also post a custom graphic to Facebook and Instagram that is a visual walkthrough of how to add Verge Pipe Media. This allows people to screenshot our snapcode and add us easily via this method as well.

It’s also good to note that you can always screenshot or save the content you create on Snapchat and post on your other channels to be repurposed beyond the “instant” nature of the one-to-one posts or the 24-hour life span of a story post.

The latest feature that we have experimented with is custom, on-demand Snapchat geofilters. The process is simple. If you’re even moderately proficient in Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, you can easily create a file to use for your geo-tag.

We keep hearing from our interns, our family members and other millennials proficient on Snapchat that they love filters. We also keep hearing that there are extremely limited filters in Auburn (there are) and they also lack creativity (they do). Being able to create on-demand filters around events is really an area where we plan to differentiate ourselves.

The final piece our Snapchat puzzle has been “Snapchat Takeovers” These events are becoming more and more common each day. A takeover is when a brand or individual, allows another user to create content on their account for a period of time, creating their own story for that day (or even for just a few hours). The user sends all their followers to watch a story on that new account.

Snapchat is still limited when it comes to discovering new and interesting users, so takeovers are quickly proving to be the most effective method for growing audiences. They allow brands to show a variety of content and expose new audiences to new people.

How to leverage snapchat’s new custom geofilters

Our Experiment

In early March, we decided to do our first full-scale test to see how we could maximize our Snapchat use. As is customary for us, we had planned to have a booth at the Auburn University School of Communication and Journalism’s annual internship and job fair. We have been fortunate to select interns from this event the past, and once again wanted to get our name in front of this influential student group.

So, as part of our awareness plans for the 2016 event, we rolled out a multi-layered social media promotion plan that included:

Facebook

Teaser image and post about our appearance with an image of our Snapcode prompting followers to follow us on Snapchat

Posting photos to a gallery on the day of the job fair featuring our custom geo-filter

Twitter

5+ tweets leading up to the event promoting our appearance

A mix of links of to our Snapchat account and our Snapcode image

Tweets tagging @AULiberalArts and @AU_CMJN

5+ tweets from the event with photos of our table and links to Snapchat

Instagram

Teaser image and post about our appearance with an image of our Snapcode prompting followers to follow us on Snapchat

A collage photo from the event showing off our custom Snapchat geofilter

Snapchat

Started teasing our appearance two days prior on the VPM Snapchat story

Played up the appearance of our office mascot “Fake Blake Shelton”

Custom geofilters for Auburn Student Center and Tichenor Hall

Encouraged people to take selfies with “Fake Blake Shelton” using the geofilter

Other Promotional Points

Capitalized on messaging that we’ve hired multiple people from this event in the past

In 2015 we had two candidates complete an unpaid internship and turned it into a part-time job at VPM that includes Paid Time Off

Each team member shared their experiences on their personal social platforms and shared multiple personal Snapchat stories using our custom geofilter.

Each intern shared their authentic experiences that they’ve learned while working as part of the VPM team

All team members’ messaging was geared to answer the “What’s a typical day like?” questions that we often receive

What We Learned 

3,176 Snapchat geofilter impressions

More than 10x the Facebook reach from the previous week (1K to 11.8K)

Nearly doubled Twitter engagements from the previous week (64 to 120)

6 of our Top 10 tweets contained content from the Job Fair

Nearly 50 combined likes on our Instagram content

We were told by multiple attendees that when doing research on companies, they saw our messaging about Snapchat and a few made a point to say that they followed us to see our story.

Two possible candidates reached out to us after the event saying they had seen our filter on their friend’s Snapchat stories and wanted to pass along their information for a possible internship. Both cited that it was the custom Snapchat geofilters which prompted them to reach out to us.

We’re living proof that, as Gary Vaynerchuk states, “a custom snapchat geofilter is a branded impression on steroids.” We also agree that in the next year, there is HUGE ROI potential here. Look, we geo-fenced two campus building for 10 hours each, with an engaging design, for an insanely good deal of $18.47 and we got 3,176 total impressions!

Snapchat is still a largely untapped frontier for most major brands. Even the latest stats show that not even 1% of brands utilize Snapchat. This means that there is still room for experimentation, or plenty of ways to “test and learn.”

Snapchat may be labor intensive and require a daily commitment, but we feel that it is worth the investment to see how we can stand out. We already believe that just using geofilters around an event helps you seperate yourselves from your competitors. So, if you’re not convinced yet, we’re sorry.

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This blog was originally published by Verge Pipe Media.