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?

 

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.

 

 

Professional Development Q&A With Kevin DeShazo

This post is the 10th in a series of Q&A sessions with friends, former colleagues, acquaintances and other contacts who I consider both influential and inspirational. Each of these individuals possesses a skillset that I believe you will find valuable. They have each made an impact throughout my career path and I wanted to feature them in this series.

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5   Part 6   Part 7   Part 8   Part 9

Name: Kevin DeShazo (@KevinDeShazo)
Profession: Founder of Fieldhouse Media and Culture Wins Championships
Degree: BS in Management Information Systems, MBA in International Business

You should know by now that I’m a big fan of Twitter.  You’ll find out below in this interview that so is Kevin. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he and I first connected on our favorite social media platform. We’ve been having conversations on our favorite social media platform for around 2-3 years now. He may even have ended up in my timeline because of interaction with Mark Hodgkin or Chris Yandle.

But, I digress. Kevin and I share many common traits and have had lots of conversations outside of Twitter quite frequently. His thought leadership when it comes to smart social media use for student athletes is second to none. Make sure to check out what he has going on over at Fieldhoue Media. His latest effort, Culture Wins Championships, is all about providing leaders in athletics with a proven program to create a championship winning culture. He is an expert in both areas and is constantly delivering his messages to the top athletic programs in the country.

All of that said, I think you will find Kevin’s discussion below not only informative, but useful as well. I hope you enjoy the following tidbits and advice from Kevin DeShazo.

1) How does your current profession align with the degree you graduated with? If you have held other jobs, how closely have they been aligned?
Ha. It doesn’t, at all. My degree was in Management Information Systems. I knew early on I didn’t want anything to do with that field, but I sort of stumbled into where I am now. My first job out of college was as an embalmer’s assistant at a funeral home (a story for another day) then I got into the healthcare recruiting. In 13 years (that makes me feel old), my actual degree has had nothing to do with my professional career.

2) What did you ‘plan to do’ after college and how close is that to what you’re doing at this point in your career? Were there any deviations along the way and did they help/hurt your path to your current job?
Truth be told, I’m not much of a planner. I go wherever “feels right” and love to keep my options open. So I didn’t have a specific plan once I graduated. This is probably why I ended up working at a funeral home. It seemed fun, so why not? I never could have envisioned doing what I do now.

For one, social media wasn’t really a thing. Facebook existed and MySpace was coming, but the iPhone didn’t exist and the world as we know it was vastly different. And traveling the country to speak to athletes, coaches and leaders was honestly never something I considered. I always wanted to do something “big” but I didn’t know what that was.

Along the way I went from the funeral home to the corporate world and then to starting my own businesses. There were incredible successes and failures along the way (I went 2 years without making any money). But those opportunities and situations gave me perspective on the bigger story of life, and drove me to want to help people believe they have a story worth telling.

3) What’s your best piece of advice for today’s entry-level candidates?
Know your strengths and weaknesses, be humble yet believe you’re capable. Be willing to do the work. Know your why.

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4) What do like the most about your profession?
I love being on campus and interacting with people, getting to help them realize what they’re capable of. On the social media side it’s helping players, coaches and administrators realize they have a story worth telling and guiding them in how to tell it. With leadership development, it’s helping them believe they are capable of being leaders worth following and guiding them through that process. It’s incredible to see a leader and a team truly change their culture. And the emails/calls/texts I get about the impact that our work is having on individuals, teams and even families/marriages. It’s incredibly humbling and energizing. It’s a tiring job that requires a lot of travel, but I head home every trip grateful for what I get to call work.

5) What is the biggest challenge you face in your profession?
People have gotten to a place now where they think that because student-athletes spend a ton of time on social media, that means they understand it and know how to use it well. So helping administrators realize that’s not reality, and that social media education is still crucial for these groups. I thinking also battling complacency. Fieldhouse Media has established itself as the leader in social media education for college athletics, but that doesn’t mean I can get comfortable. With Culture Wins Championships, the challenge is that the leadership space is really noisy and crowded, so trying to serve leaders in order to show them how what we have to offer is different.

6) How has your industry changed during your time as a professional?
I started Fieldhouse in 2011, when the social media world was mostly Facebook and Twitter and most people were afraid of it. Today, social media is the way people communicate and new platforms continue to arrive on the scene. Early on, administrators wanted student-athletes to be scared of social media and wanted education centered on that. Today, they realize how important and valuable it is for student-athletes to use social media purposefully. I prefer to focus on the positives so that has made my job a lot easier.

7) Why do people leave your field or company? Do you agree with why they leave?
I think people leave the field because they are exhausted. Athletics is an “always on” industry and it can cause serious stress on individuals and families. People either embrace that and find the balance where they can, or they get frustrated and tired and pursue careers outside of athletics.

8) Are you considering leaving your current field or company?
Absolutely not. I genuinely love what I do.

9) What is your favorite social media platform?
Twitter, without a doubt. I love the community, the people I’ve been able to meet and the opportunities it’s provided me.

10) What was the last book you read? The last TED talk or other e-learning content you consumed?
Last book I read was Shoe Dog (the Phil Knight bio – highly recommend). Also a huge fan of the StoryBrand podcast and (shameless plug) The Liberator podcast – provided by the guys who run the GiANT Worldwide, the leadership company behind Culture Wins Championships.

11) Where do you receive your news and information?
Twitter…end of discussion. Just kidding…

A. Print Newspaper — What’s that?
B. Online Newspaper — The Oklahoman, The Tulsa World, The New York Times
C. Television — Typically tuned to ESPN or The Food Network. (I try not to watch cable news).
D. Twitter — A variety of news outlets and individual journalists (from sports to politics to culture to religion or a variety of other topics)
E. Facebook — I try to avoid Facebook

12) What are your hobbies? Do you wish you had more time to pick up a hobby?
If I’m not at work or with family/friends, I’m running, cycling or roasting coffee.

Tips For Maximizing 360 Video

Visual content is a vital part of any successful marketing strategy today. However, we’re already moving past the days of having only an image accompany every post on social media. Many brands are using animated GIFs or animated infographics, while others are using short videos to promote their content.

Video is no longer “nice” to include in your marketing plan. It’s a crucial marketing tactic and is a powerful way to communicate your brand story, explain why you are different and build relationships with your fans, customers and evangelists.

The most recent statistics prove that video not only works, but works well. In fact, 92% of mobile video consumers share videos with others. Brands can no longer ignore the power of video.

360 video and virtual realty is the latest type of visual content that you can add to your marketing toolbox. The library of 360 video content is growing by the day as more and more platforms like YouTube and Facebook support 360 viewing capability.

This latest innovation can allow brands to produce extremely unique content for their audiences. But, I must caution you, don’t just do 360 video to say you’re doing 360 video. Below I offer some things to consider to make sure your content is unique and compelling for your target audience.

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1) It’s all about your personas – Every piece of content you produce should appeal to and be created for your buyer personas. Not familiar with the term “buyer persona?” Maybe you call it your target audience, or your core audience. Maybe you just refer to them more commonly as “readers” or “fans.” Whatever you call them, they are the representations of your ideal customers based on market research and real data you gather about them. Any good marketer needs to know their personas inside and out and always create content they want. If you dip your toes into the 360 video realm, you have to make sure this is something they want or will watch. You don’t want to produce a 360 video, just say you did. Which brings me to my next point…

2) Always bring value – Don’t ever produce content “just because” or “because everyone else is doing it.” You never know, they may be producing something their personas don’t want or they may also just be trying to keep up with the trends. If you feel you have the data at hand to produce 360 content, then your strategy team must plan to bring value. What types of video will your personas like? What makes it unique? What will set it apart from from your other content or campaigns? What I’ve seen work when it comes to franchises or athletics departments is exclusive content. Taking fans to places they can’t normally go. I’m talking about locker room or facility tours, pregame and postgame access, celebrations, team travel, etc. You can immerse your fans in occurrences like this with 360 video to bring them even closer to the team. For brands, 360 video works for new product unveilings and storytelling pieces. The brands able to leverage 360 at the moment are outdoor adventure brands, automobile makers and movie studios.

3) Think of the end product first – Once your marketing team has used available data to help decide you’re ready for 360 video and has developed a list of content ideas that may work, it is time to work backwards. What do I mean by that? I mean that the story you tell will shape the 360 experience for your personas. You’ll need to think of the ultimate end-user experience and how they will navigate this 360 video. Do you need to control the immersive experience and what the viewer is looking at? Will that further complicate the video? Do you need a guide in the form of a voiceover? Are you changing locations or will there be transitions? How will the viewer know how to navigate? Will you have to add post production to replicate a menu or navigation controls in case the viewer isn’t looking in the right direction? These are all questions that will need to be addressed and planned out prior to scheduling the video production. Trust me, this may seem like a lot of planning, but it will be reflected in the final product. After all, your goal is to produce a quality piece of content that your personas want to consume.

If you’d like some confirmation on how you can use video in various ways to reach your target personas, check out this post. Additionally, if you need some data to present to your team or superiors in your next marketing meeting, check out these stats from HubSpot.

Each of the points above could quite possibly be a blog post on its own. There are so many things to consider when it comes to producing quality video content, let alone the latest in 360 video content. In my opinion, the tips above are the most important to keep in mind in your next marketing meeting. Video content marketing has to be a part of your marketing strategy in 2017 and following the above will ensure your fans love the final product.

Professional Development Q&A with Karen Freberg

This post is the second in a series of Q&A sessions with friends, former colleagues, acquaintances and other contacts who I consider both influential and inspirational. Each of these individuals possesses a skillset that I believe you will find valuable. They have each made an impact throughout my career path and I wanted to feature them in this series.

Name: Karen Freberg (@kfreberg)
Profession: Assistant Professor in Strategic Communications
Degree: Ph.D from the University of Tennessee (Communications), M.A from University of Southern California (Strategic Public Relations), and B.S from University of Florida (Public Relations).

If I remember correctly, I started following Karen on Twitter within the last year. In fact, I believe I discovered her via my first Q&A subject Chris Yandle. Social media is a funny thing, you can really feel like you get to know someone based on their Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat content. You can also get introduced some very cool people whom you might not have otherwise got to know.

Through Twitter I learned early that Karen is not only a passionate instructor of all things social media, she’s a practitioner as well. There are so many speakers, instructors and others out there who discuss social and its best practices and it becomes obvious they’re not practicing what they preach. Karen however is active on social, especially on Twitter and Snapchat and she was an obvious choice to feature on my blog. I hope you enjoy the following tidbits and advice from Karen Freberg.

1) How does your current profession align with the degree you graduated with? If you have held other jobs, how closely have they been aligned?
I’d have to say my current role is very closely aligned. I always knew I wanted to go into teaching, but I didn’t know in what until I discovered PR during my first year at the University of Florida. I was a pre-med major (didn’t last long) before switching to psychology. However, thanks to my athletic academic advisor at the time, she saw what I was doing in promoting myself as a student-athlete online (websites, newsletters, etc) and suggested PR. Took my first class and the rest is history!

2) What did you ‘plan to do’ after college and how close is that to what you’re doing at this point in your career? Were there any deviations along the way and did they help/hurt your path to your current job?
Pretty close! I have always been a fan of technology, so teaching courses in strategic communications and social media really make sense to me. It’s been a fun journey and one that makes me very happy. It’s a combination of research, teaching, mentorship, and practicing what I am preaching in class with consulting and speaking engagements.

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3)What’s your best piece of advice for today’s entry-level candidates?
Learning does not end after school. You are going to have to work hard, continue educating yourself, and networking within and outside of your chosen field. This is a field that is constantly changing, so you need to work hard to keep up.

4) What do like the most about your profession?
The fact that it is constantly changing and evolving. I get bored REALLY easily and if I was doing the same thing every day – that wouldn’t work. I love learning and exploring new ways of solving problems, identifying opportunities, and helping others.

5) What is the biggest challenge you face in your profession?
I’d say time management. We all have time, but we decide to spend it on certain things. It’s our most precious currency and we have to make the most of it. Some people do, but a lot of people don’t.

6) Has your industry changed during your time as a professional?
YEP! I remember when I was working and doing my internships, MySpace was the place to be. However, I try to actively take on projects and consult so I am able to stay in touch with the profession still as an educator. Plus, my research is very much on the applied side, so that also helps.

7) Why do people leave your field or company? Do you agree with why they leave?
I have had a few friends leave academia to go into practice, and I think it all comes down to what their overall goals are personally. Each case was different – but life is a journey and I have always supported my friends in their decisions. Thanks to social media, we all are able to stay in touch!

8) Are you considering leaving your current field or company?
NOPE. Never has crossed my mind. Love what I do!

9) What is your favorite social media platform?
This is a hard one!! I’d have to say Twitter for networking and being able to connect my students with professionals. It’s been my go to platform for my classes for years. I’d have to say I am also a fan of Snapchat and Instagram (especially Instagram Stories) is slowly growing on me.

10) What was the last book you read? The last TED talk or other e-learning content you consumed?
I read Mark Schaefer’s latest book “Known” and it was pretty good. I am an avid reader of online content and the last piece I read was an article about why people were leaving Snapchat to go over to Instagram. Fascinating!

11) Where do you receive your news and information?
I’d have to say a variety of places. I spend about 15 minutes at the beginning of the day to catch up with what is happening in the field, society and world. I have a list of industry, local, national, and international resources I check on a regular basis. This is my morning routine always with a cup of coffee in hand.

12) What are your hobbies? Do you wish you had more time to pick up a hobby?
Love working out and cooking. I am currently training for my second mini marathon (did my first one last year to celebrate my 10 year anniversary of my retirement from track and field!) I also love photography and traveling. I have a few trips planned out for this spring as well as summer (including going to the Cannes Lions Festival) for work, which I am excited about. Exploring new places, cultures, and environments helps spark my creativity and appreciation of the wonderful world we live in.

Did Higher Education Embrace Inbound Marketing in 2016?

Higher education institutions continue to lead many industries in the size of their social media audiences. This potential reach makes social media an easy and natural way to spread various messages to prospective students, current students, parents, and alumni.

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Social media is also a key component to a solid Inbound Marketing strategy. So, you may think that higher education institutions are a leading the way when it comes to Inbound Marketing. But did higher education embrace inbound marketing in 2016? You may be surprised to learn they still have some work to do.

According to a recent Inbound Marketing study of 11 top industries, higher education institutions ranked 7th when it comes to using Inbound Marketing as their primary approach to marketing. It barely out-paces industries such as financial services, healthcare, and manufacturing.

Need more proof they could improve? In terms of marketing priorities for the next 12 months, below are where higher education ranks among the same 11 induries in various strategic categories:

10thGrowing website traffic
10th – Providing Return On Investment (ROI)
10th – Increased revenue from existing customers (alumni)
9th  – Reducing costs of contacts (in-person visits, etc.)

So What Does This Mean?
It means that even though higher education institutions are beginning to see the value in Inbound Marketing by even participating in a survey such as this, they still have work to do. Their top priority was converting leads into customers. In fact, they ranked that priority higher than any other industry surveyed.

But, these days it’s increasingly more difficult to convert leads into customers without growing website traffic and adopting simple Inbound principles. You really can’t afford to go part of the way when it comes to Inbound. You must take a hard look at what adopting Inbound will mean and craft a strategy to do so.

How To Make The Switch?
If higher education institutions think making the switch will be too hard, they can always look to seek help from an Inbound Agency. Or, they can follow these simple tips below to get started.

  • Start with Personas – Craft buyer personas that fit your ideal conversions/customers. Those “c words” usually scare higher education professionals, but they shouldn’t. For higher education, it could be prospective students you are recruiting or key industry leaders you want to speak at graduation. Regardless, figure out who you’re trying to reach and then construct your content around what they would want to read and on the proper platforms.
  • Align Platforms with Goals – Select the social media platforms that offer the most potential to meet your goals. They all don’t play the same role. Twitter is for conversation. Maybe start a regularly scheduled Twitter chat so prospects have a chance to talk with a live person from your school. LinkedIn is alumni-focused. Post relevant information about school rankings and the importance of a degree from your school.
  • Track Metrics That Matter – Not all metrics matter, so track the ones that help you define your ROI. If you’re looking to increase traffic, tracking URLs can tell you what piece of content brought a visitor to your site and the social media site where they found your link. In general, the most actionable social media metrics will be those that indicate engagement such as click throughs, shares, comments, and the percentage of community engaging with your content.

It’s apparent that higher education institutions are still hesitant to embrace Inbound Marketing. It is hard for us to figure out why when it’s been shown that following Inbound Marketing principles leads to 54% more leads and a huge savings over traditional marketing.

Inbound marketers can only continue to have conversations with the key stakeholders at schools and help dispel any myths that still exist about Inbound Marketing.

For more information about inbound marketing, subscribe to my blog here.

This blog was originally published for Verge Pipe Media.

 

RFID Applications in the Sporting World

RFID is a proven technology that’s been around since at least the 1970s. However, it’s been too expensive and too limited to be practical for many commercial applications until recent years. Now that the costs associated with making tags have decreased, RFID tags can solve many of the problems associated with manufacturing and the supply chain.

The tags can be embedded or encased in packaging for weather-proofing and greater durability. Tags also have microchips that can store a unique serial number for every product manufactured around the world.

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With these new capabilities, areas outside of manufacturing are also seeing a rise in RFID tagging and technology. One of these areas is sports and sporting events.

Data analytics and advanced statistics are changing the way people watch and participate in sporting events. While RFID technology is allowing for new applications each year, we at VPM wanted to concentrate on the top three RFID applications in sports.

Ticketing 

Dating back to the 2005, sporting venues have been using inlays embedded in tickets that are scanned using stationary readers at entry gates to grant spectators entrance. In 2006, the FIFA World Cup became the world’s largest user of RFID in sports ticketing and continues to use the technology today. One of the main reasons that FIFA, and several other organizations choose to employ RFID technology in ticketing, was to enhance security and prevent counterfeiting. This use of RFID continues today with many event organizers investing in automated RFID-enabled systems to replace antiquated manual and error prone processes.

Player Tracking

Companies such as PLUS Location Systems and Zebra Technologies are leading the way in player tracking technology in sports. These companies use RFID technology to capture the high-rate motion of athletes, referees, and game balls to deliver real-time data streams, reports, visual graphics, and more to enhance the game experience and provide a detailed record of performance for statistical analysis. RFID tracking technology can also be used in player training scenarios to analyze real-time performance which helps maximize their capabilities and minimize injuries and fatigue.

Concessions 

While RFID implementation across stadiums has been slow, it’s beginning to happen. Teams and stadiums that already using RFID are using it to trigger exclusive, stadium-only promotions and trivia to fans devices. Other applications include alerting fans on restrooms with the shortest wait times or concession stands with the shortest lines. Many teams are progressing to use RFID technology to track fan behaviors, movement, and spending inside stadiums.

RFID technolgy is going to greatly change the way many areas function for years to come. If you’d like to learn more about this technology, I suggest you reach out to the Auburn University RFID Lab. Justin Patton and the group there are doing revolutionary things and can help you decide if RFID is right for your brand.

For more Inbound Marketing knowledge and tips, subscribe to my blog
 

Three Steps For Effective Facebook Live Videos

Facebook Live made its debut in 2016 and continues to revolutionize how marketers use the platform to reach their target audiences. As Facebook’s algorithm continues to give more preference to video that is live over video that is not, marketers need to be smart when using the platform.

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Brands and agencies hoping to catch people’s attention and with Facebook Live videos often make mistakes causing buyer personas to not watch them. So, Verge Pipe Media wanted to provide some tips to make sure your videos get viewed. Click below for our three steps for effective Facebook Live videos.

Lack of Focus

Despite what you may think, Live videos need to have the same proper planning as scripted videos. You don’t want to “go live” and have no clear topic or direction for your content. A video like that will get boring pretty quickly. We’re not saying to script your live video, but you should settle on a specific topic to keep your audience engaged. 

Performances, speeches, and tutorials are good examples of structured content that perform well on Facebook Live. From the live map, which shows Live users around the world, there are usually a few of the previous examples listed.

Having a clear topic and streaming content regularly will help create consistency and prompt viewers to come back for repeat Live broadcasts.

Poor Connectivity

Most viewers have become accustomed to a high standard of video quality. Degrading video quality and video loss are the worst-case scenarios for live-streaming. Viewers will get frustrated if the stream goes out at an important moment or ends up not working at all.

Marketers need to do advanced planning to ensure that the Live stream will have a strong and secure connection to either a wired or wireless network. Those who properly plan in advance to minimize the risks with the stream will ensure a high-quality video. This will increase the chances for gaining viewership and followers.

No Interactions

The early returns show the most successful Facebook Live videos are ones encouraging interaction with the viewers. These personal elements of interaction give the viewer an obvious benefit in watching the live stream. There’s a reason that live-streaming websites like Twitch have live chats. Events need to be a two-way street, so make sure interaction is encouraged.

This interactivity makes users and viewers feel a sense of community and shared interest. Social media at its core is about meaningful communication. Users who understand the importance of engaging with viewers are much more likely to gain followers and customers.

Facebook Live is still in its early stages and still growing in popularity. As we’ve written about before here and here, there are many ways marketers can leverage the platform. It’s an exciting time for video marketing as streaming live content has never been easier.

The basic keys to success are:

  • planning quality content,
  • securing a strong connection and
  • interacting meaningfully with viewers

In the long run, Facebook Live will be judged on its users’ abilities to create original and meaningful content on a regular basis.

To learn more video marketing tips and how they can be used in your Inbound Marketing strategy, click here

 

A Giving Tuesday Success Story

Entering its fifth year, #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.), #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.

Since its inaugural year in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy with events throughout the year and a growing catalog of resources.

As #GivingTuesday approaches for 2016, I wanted to highlight a shining example of a well-executed giving day. My alma mater, Illinois State University, has broken annual fundraising records for two consecutive years thanks to its efforts on #GivingTuesday.

Recently I spoke with Lora Wey, Executive Director of Annual Giving at ISU, to pick her brain about what tactics ISU has used to break these records. Click below to read the full  transcript of our question and answer session.

Tod: How did you and your team decide to capitalize on #GivingTuesday?

LW: On Giving Tuesday, annual giving drives the bus for this project. We had to get other units on campus like marketing and communications, web services, donor information services, etc. to buy in to the day. Those units are needed to create your core committee. Next were meetings with the President and Provost, the Deans at each college, and the various department chairs. Gaining buy in top-down is simply a function of how Illinois State is set up. In addition, each college and department manage their own social media so having them on board enhanced a coordinated effort.

Tod: How far in advance did you begin these talks? 

LW: In our first year, we began planning in August (for an event in December). Even at a large institution, we were able to get everyone on the same page and pull off a successful event with only three months planning.

Tod: How did you decide what areas to fund?

LW: At Illinois State, there are over 1,000 funds! Listing that many choices on a dropdown menu loses your audience. We decided to start with the largest priority fund per college and department. After the first year, we increased the number of funds to just over 50. People really enjoyed having more options because that is our culture at Illinois State. We’ve found that sticking to around 50 choices is the sweet spot.

Tod: How do you keep momentum going?

LW: We started with the major gift officers. Donors making gifts or pledges payable within the current fiscal were asked if we could use their gift as a challenge on Giving Tuesday. On Giving Tuesday, we opted to use six to eight challenges; these drive the momentum. Throughout the course of the day, larger gifts and challenges will happen organically as donors see the momentum and the excitement of the day. But, having those challenges ready and adding new ones excites and motivates the external audience.

Tod: How many triggers do you suggest throughout the day?

LW: We have always had between five and seven trigger events throughout the day. However, they aren’t always about dollars or specific donor connections. A big part of the efforts is social media participation, so we incorporated re-tweet challenges. That engaged a segment by spreading the word and helping raise awareness.

Tod: Which trigger event was the most successful?

LW: The re-tweet challenge was our most successful and we reached our target very quickly. I would suggest incorporating an engagement challenge in any crowdfunding plan. Re-tweet challenges really engage an observer to get involved in the day.

Tod: What advice do you have as far as timing for content?

LW: Consider memes, short impact videos etc., after lunch and in the afternoon lull. We did the re-tweet challenge at 12:30 p.m. and had other things cued up until 2 p.m. to help fight that afternoon lull. We also sent an email during that period to help counter the quiet period.

Tod: Is it counterintuitive to start with a low giving threshold?

LW: A lot of people in fundraising may think so, but Illinois State is growing a culture of philanthropy, so we had to illustrate that every gift matters. There was concern that the average gift would be $10. We actually found after removing the really large gifts, that the actual average gift for us was $49. So our donors were rising to the challenge and not backing down, even though our first ask was $10.

Tod: What are your goals for year three? 

LW: We’ve had success each year, but it hasn’t been around total dollar amounts or average gift. We still want to emphasize donor participation in order to grow the pipeline. This year we may increase our first donor goal challenge to 600 or 650.

Tod: What would you say are key components to a successful day?

LW: Recruit your social media ambassadors! Our social media ambassadors consisted of on-campus ambassadors such as faculty and staff that took an interest, and then alumni “social media ambassadors” that follow us on Facebook and Twitter and engage regularly. We had alumni that are regularly follow our flagship accounts and we reached out to them with information on what we were doing and asked them to share information. We probably had 15-200 social media ambassadors sharing the information via their social media throughout the day. It takes little time and doesn’t cost anything.

Tod: Did you leverage any LIVE components?

LW: LIVE video on social media has really come about in the last year, so we haven’t done anything like that yet. We had all the content and memes prepared beforehand though and rolled those out during the day. This year we plan to have more video components and feature the football and basketball coaches, because we know we should leverage more video content.

Tod: Did you utilize traditional media? 

LW: We utilized local and regional media outlets, both print and television. We weren’t the only local not for profits participating in Giving Tuesday but we were the most visible. I would suggest utilizing all forms of media to get your messaging out.

Tod: How was your “War Room” set up?

LW: The room consisted of our core committee. The IT person who designed our giving site, marketing who designed memes and posted on the university Facebook page, and gift processing. There were also other members helping to “like” and “share” as specific units and we also had a dedicated person for questions and support. In total, 8-10 of us coordinating messaging and answering questions. The School of Communications’ SMACC Lab which tracks trends, social sentiment, etc. gave us access into who and what was trending, what ambassadors had the most influence, etc. This also helped us to diffuse anything that was said negatively.

Tod: What are your major “Dos and Don’ts” for hosting a successful Giving Day?

LW: 1) Get the buy-in early with your core team of people. 

2) You need someone who understands the web. We “home built” our platform, for lack of a better term, instead of contracting with an outside vendor, so you need someone from IT on board. Even if you use an outside vendor, the IT person needs to be familiar with the platform and how to troubleshoot and prepare for any problems.

3) You need the appropriate marketing and communications people on board to help you promote the messaging and to generate the right chatter on the day of the event. The hope is that the online giving site blows up with activity, so it’s key to make sure your online site can accommodate the rush of visitors. 

4) Make sure your email provider/server can accommodate sending mass email sends. Email is a big component, not just social media. You have to make sure your system can send 20,000-50,000 emails in one drop. We asked after year one “how did you hear about this” and the answer was emails.

5) Six emails were lined up to go during the day. The content was written ahead of time and included broad messaging so that we could add additional text right before we sent it. We sent an email once we hit the initial goal and encouraged people to learn more and to keep giving. A lull between 12:30-3:30 was sent to keep momentum going. 

6) Involve campus “faces” like the President, coach, or the mascot creatively.  

7) Plan to steward Giving Tuesday donors throughout the year to keep them engaged with your university.

With the right buy-in, a well thought out strategic plan and clever content, Illinois State University has been able to crush their annual giving goals. What’s in store for them in 2016? Well, you should keep on the lookout for announcements from them.

In the meantime, I can tell you that you can’t just “wing it” on #GivingTuesday or whatever time of the year you decide to execute your Giving Day. You must have proper planning to ensure solid execution. 

For more tips and tricks on how to use Inbound Marketing for fundraising, click here

The Importance of Social Media Customer Service

Customer service needs are evolving to match the rapid growth and development of today’s digital media. Customers today continue to face various challenges when trying to seek customer service help or a representative. That’s why many consumers are turning to social media to seek help, leave comments and look for advice.

I know the importance of being easily found on social media, but being easily found on social media also means opening yourself up to customer service issues. Instead of being scared off by this byproduct, we help our clients embrace the exposure. By realizing the importance of this customer service outlet and developing strategies to be responsive on social, our clients are prepared to deliver excellent customer service.

Without giving away all of the trade secrets, I wanted to provide you with some reasons that highlight the importance of social media customer service. Below, find our top five reasons why we consider social media customer service important.

Communication is nearly immediateNearly 40% of customers who comment or complain online expect a response within an hour. Being present and managing your page consistently will allow for your team to respond in a manner that will satisfy commenters. Many people online just want to be heard. Even if you can’t immediately solve their problem, knowing quickly that you are there to help will go a long way.

A personal experience – People calling out to your brand will respect the quick response and personal tone. There won’t be any automatically generated emails or tone-based phone menus. It’s just a question, followed by an answer. Social media also allows you to think carefully about your response and present it in a more casual, conversational tone, thus humanizing your brand.

Transparency – Transparency is all about vindication. As we stated earlier, when customers are upset, they want to be heard. Posting on social media is the perfect way to be heard. By allowing your customers to make their complaints or questions public in this way, you’re giving them an immediate outlet. For companies, transparency means that other potential customers get to see how well you handle the situation. If you can answer a customer’s concerns quickly, nicely, and effectively, you’ll instantly leave all of your followers with a good feeling and showcase that your customer service is top-notch.

Brand mentions – More interactions on social media means you have more opportunities to point back to your own brand. Your customers will mention your brand in their posts, making you visible to all their contacts. Even if they come to you with a concern or an issue, you’ll get brand visibility and an opportunity to show off your ability to quickly and effectively correct the problem. This activity will help your social proof.

Easy follow-up – Depending on how long it takes for the problem to be resolved, following up with your customer is fast and easy. If you manage to resolve the problem with a quick answer, you can immediately ask whether or not the interaction was helpful. If it wasn’t, you have an opportunity to take further action. If it was helpful, you have a publicly visible follow-up interaction that ends on a positive note. It’s important to remember that Facebook now visibly posts on your page your response time (see photo below). Customers will already have an expectation set for them about when they hear back from you. You can’t even earn Facebook’s customer service badge until you respond to 90% of your inquiries withing 15 minutes!

Companies can’t hide anymore. They must be on social and they must quickly and confidently respond to comments and complaints that appear on their social media channels. If they consider the reasons above, they should see that a brand can separate itself on social by the way it handles customer service issues online.

For more social media customer service tips and Inbound Marketing knowledge, subscribe to my blog

Thig blog was originally published for Verge Pipe Media.