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?

 

Your Career May Be A Jungle Gym…And That’s OK

A popular book on the #SBBX and one my wife read this summer is Sheryl Sandberg’s thought-provoking book, Lean In: Women, Work, And The Will To Lead. It’s a great read for working women and for the men who are married to them.

One of the more popular quotes from the book, one which we have discussed at length, is the following: “A jungle gym scramble is the best description of my career. I could never have connected the dots from where I started to where I am today.” She attributes the metaphor to Fortune magazine editor Pattie Sellers.

She’s totally right. We grow up hearing about the “career leader” and how your career should be a “climb to the top” or at least a climb to a level that makes you happy and secure. I had this mindset for most of my early professional career. It was all I knew really. But, if I had to do things over again, I’m positive I would approach my career differently.

The era of employment for life with one company is over. Workers now switch from job to job much more frequently in search of grafter fulfillment and compensation. Today, the average person changes jobs 10 to 15 times (with an average of 12 job changes) during his or her career. Most workers spend five years or less in every job, so they devote more time and energy transitioning from one job to the next.

That is why approaching job searches must be done differently these days and consistent networking is a must. You also have to be agile as you track and adjust to job market trends.

So how do you go about having this agile mindset? How do you plan for professional development and not just career planning? Let me provide a few examples I now employ during my career shifts that I wish I had been more cognizant of from the jump.

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Stay Relevant I’ve written this previously, but staying relevant by learning to code, getting various certifications and learning the basics of video production and photography are great ways to stay up to date on industry trends. Many companies today look for talent that is experienced in wide areas of expertise. Always learning new things and staying relevant in the skills that industry HR people are looking for will help you as you look to advance your career.

Be Mindful of Your Social Media Presence — I have many thoughts on “personal branding” which I hope to write about for FOS soon, but I did want to touch on the topic here. Whether you realize it or not, everything you post on social media can help form people’s opinions of you. Therefore, it is your choice to either actively control and shape your personal brand, or let others do it for you. You need to be your best advocate because how you present yourself online could determine future leadership or career opportunities.

Take Advantage of Lateral or Downward Moves — This one may seem counterproductive, but career opportunities come in all shapes, sizes and directions. This is really what can turn your career path into a career jungle gym. During my time searching for new employment I’ve spoken with many people who arrived to their current position by moving laterally within a company or even down, to then progress in a different department. These moves also allow you to see the bigger picture of your business or brand from another point of view. Always stay open to the opportunities that present themselves. You never know what move, no matter the direction, may be the next key to your career success. Trust me here, I can pinpoint a specific lateral opportunity with a previous employer that I wish I had pursued. I don’t dwell on it, but I do look back at how foolish I was for not even entertaining the thought of trying a different route during my early tenure in athletics.

Apply For The Position Anyway — I can’t tell you how many times professionals hold back from applying for a position because they don’t think they have the skills needed to succeed. It’s OK if you don’t, as long as you have the drive, motivation, and resourcefulness needed to get the job done. Be calculated in your risk taking. Honestly assess where your skill gaps are and get advice from a mentor to help you determine if the position is a right fit for your development plan.

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These are just a few things to consider as you move around on your career jungle gym. It’s perfectly OK to not always climb upward as you move to each new career opportunity. You have to move in the directions and in the positions that will bring you the most joy and give you the most career fulfillment.

Just because the move may not be in the direction that your father, mother, sister or brother made in their career path, doesn’t mean you’re not advancing your career.

By considering the steps above, continuing to network and build relationships, and knowing it’s OK to make career moves every few years, you’ll ultimately find that progressing through your career like a kid on a jungle gym is perfectly normal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four Important Groups to Follow on Social Media

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I don’t claim to be a Marketing and Social Media expert. In fact, I shudder when people use that word or any form of that word (ninja, guru, etc.) to describe themselves.

It’s not that I’m downplaying my skills or anyone else’s, but I think we all can be continual learners and never stop growing in our chosen field. There are some people more knowledgeable than others on certain topics, but nobody is an expert in my mind when it comes to social. It moves too fast for someone to have all the answers.

Do I have strong options on digital and social? Sure! But, I don’t claim to be an expert. I do love to have ongoing discussions on topics that are important to marketers. I’m always trying to read the latest articles from thought leaders, peers and industry executives to stay relevant. As I stated, things change so rapidly with social, it’s important to have these conversations to stay relevant.

That’s why it has always been important for me to follow four certain groups on social media. It’s critical to follow this diverse group of people and brands because you need to make sure you are keeping up with all the current conversations taking place in the industry.

So, what are these groups you ask? Here are my four group to follow on social media.

Professional Connections
This is a group that I have mentioned before in my my writing. You have your subsets of connections (core, lost and acquaintances) that you should be reaching out to consistently. These “living” lists should evolve, but you should make sure that you are connected with these folks on social media so you always have a touch point.

You may find that communicating or keeping in touch on social media is the easiest way to foster certain relationships. During these last few months, I have made a better effort to follow and connect with all levels of my “living” connections list. Keeping consistent conversations on social will allow you to learn about new opportunities (seminars, job openings, etc.) and keep you plugged into the latest news.

You never know where a conversation may lead or how a conversation will help you make your next career connection or advancement. Similarly, by extending your knowledge and expertise, you may help someone else to do the same.

Employers/Potential Employers
This segment is important from a personal branding and messaging standpoint. Following your current employer(s), and your potential employer(s) helps you share and amplify their messages. I’ve also found it incredibly useful to follow the Human Resources accounts for companies that I’d like to work for.

This comes in handy when writing cover letters, answering questions in their online portal and when speaking during an interview. If you can speak the language of your current and potential employers, you’ll have a greater advantage over those that don’t.

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Clients/Competitors
What drives your business to be successful? Other than the hard work of your team, it’s your clients and competitors. Following these groups will keep you focused on their needs and core messages. If you’ve ever worked for a marketing, PR or advertising agency you know that retaining your current book of business is critical.

A good way to make sure their messages are being received (even if you are in charge of their messaging) is to follow them yourself and view their social content against others in the native setting. Another critical part of any business is monitoring your competitors for the same messaging.

Keeping your finger on the pulse of industry messaging will help you to serve your clients better and make sure they’re either keeping pace or leading the race when it comes to their company goals for marketing, advertising and PR.

People You Disagree With
This last segment is a hard one for me and I promise I won’t name any names. But, if you truly want to broaden your social media network and your personal network, you need to follow some dissenting opinions from your own. Now I don’t mean to follow these people if they’re only going to make you mad or you’ll argue with them online. That won’t look good for you or for them.

What has been healthy for me is finding someone who you agree on most things with, but not on all things. Personally, this has brought about provocative and positive discussions that opened my eyes to how other people view certain topics. Even if you never come to an agreement on a certain topic, knowing you can have a serious conversation and remain friends is important.

You will get too insulated and susceptible to group-think if you don’t enter into discussions like this. Trust me here, I’m sure you already know a person or two who fits this description. I urge you to follow them and have discourse on topics that matter to you in order to open your mind to a new way of looking at things.

Following these four segments on social allows me to keep in touch with the current “hot topics” in the industry and foster some great relationships. I can’t tell you how many Twitter, phone, email and LinkedIn conversations I’ve had with people who I consider close friends and colleagues, yet I’ve only met a small portion of them IRL (“In Real Life” for you non-millennial types).

By following a diverse group of contacts from the segments I defined above, I’m confident that you will continue to get value from your social media interactions.

 

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.

 

 

Shifting Your Perception of The Hustle Mentality

This article originally published for Front Office Sports

We live in a world that increasingly glorifies the #hustle culture. You know the one I’m talking about, always on the #grind, setting meetings, working out, traveling, all work, no sleep. Just follow my guy Gary Vaynerchuk on any of his platforms and you’ll see the epitome of this glorified mentality. It has its merits but, trust me, it’s not for everyone.

That said, I’m not here to tell you not to work hard. But I am here to provide suggestions to help you become your most productive self. I know everyone is wired differently so I’m speaking here from past experiences. The #hustle and #riseandgrind mentality can be draining on you not only mentally, but physically and emotionally.

I’ve already written in this space about work/life balance. I wanted to continue along those lines and discuss a few more habits I have adapted in recent years that have helped me be more productive. You’ll notice that these habits don’t involve using the latest app, or another way to keep me plugged in. These are some “old school” methods that, to me at least, are still ways to #hustle and keep you on the way to being the best version of yourself.

1) Hand Written “To Do” Lists — I’ve long felt the most comfortable when my “to do” list is written out and I can physically cross items off or re-order them as priorities shift. It’s been proven that the best way to remember things is to write them down by hand. That was all I needed to hear a while back to make the change to a more traditional method. I still use apps like Calendar, Notes, Reminders and Evernote for certain things (the pinging on my phone is still needed), but I rely on them much less that I used to. I also like to hang on to my lists and planners. With an app, things eventually get deleted. To me, that just seemed like a tidy way of organizing. But with a paper trail, it’s a great way to look back at your past week, month or year. There is something refreshing about reflecting on how much you’ve accomplished. I also have heard many stories about families discovering old journals and notes from family members. What a cool way to remember and reminisce about a loved one when you can read their accounts in their own words and handwriting!

2) Face-to-Face Connections — I’ve been reading recently about how email controls our day. This in turn means we are letting other people’s agendas dictate our productivity. How many times do you just about get in your “zone” or say to yourself that you’re going to focus on a certain task for the next hour and then PING, you get distracted by that “urgent” red flag email? I’m guessing more often than you want to admit. We have to change the way we respond to emails and other distractions. I’ve learned that I need to set aside certain times of my day to check them and from there prioritize my responses. Not everything needs a response! Now to get to the title of this point, face to face connections. What I try to do for pressing matters is make time to set face-to-face meetings. Not long, boring meetings. But, short and productive personal sessions. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish meeting face to face! This is even a tactic I like to use when networking and connecting. Don’t just rely and emails and texts. Work as hard as you can to meet someone for coffee, a quick lunch or a happy hour drink. You’ll be amazed at how productive they can be.

3) Reflection and Wellness — I must give credit to me better half for this section. My wife Megan has totally transformed the way I reflect, stay mindful and make sure I’m taking care of myself physically. These are also ways to help keep you grounded if you feel that the #hustle is getting the best of you. A few things that I have adopted are journaling, getting enough sleep and understanding the concept of peaks and valleys. Journaling has helped me chronicle the best parts of my day and reflect on the things that matter to me the most. This can be anything from time with my family, getting that interview I wanted, or even the Cardinals sweeping the Marlins. You will also be astonished at how much reflecting on the good will keep you focused on your goals. Getting enough sleep is usually not a problem for me, but when life and work get stressful or complicated, it can really affect your sleep patterns. You must remain cognizant of your sleep patterns. It’s OK to shut off the #hustle at 10pm or earlier each night and go to sleep. It’s also OK to sleep past dawn. Figure out when you can get the 7–8 recommended hours for most adults to help balance your hormones and help your body recover.

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I mostly kid when I say that these are “old school” ways of staying productive. I’m not that old, and these methods can work for nearly anyone. What I am saying is that as much as I strive to work hard, reach for my goals and build relationships, I can’t get caught up in the #hustle culture. That just doesn’t work for me. It’s not how I am wired.

If you find yourself scared of the real world or scared of the grind of working for an athletic department, a corporation or an agency…don’t. Be yourself. Stay true to the principles and methods that keep you focused and grounded.

If you’re someone who has been working for a while and you’re not Generation X and also not a Millennial, I will tell you same thing. Be yourself. Don’t compromise your values, don’t lose your mindfulness and don’t let the #hustle culture get to you.

 

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 Mark Hodgkin

This post is the seventh 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

Name: Mark Hodgkin (@Mark_Hodgkin)
Profession: Director of Product Development
Degree: BA in History, University of Texas at Austin; MBA, Bryant University

Mark and I connected via twitter (which isn’t that uncommon in this day and age). I would say it was in 2015 or so and again it was via my guy Chris Yandle. We traded some comments on Twitter for a while, and then in 2016 Mark reached out to me to discuss careers and other items.

At the time Mark was in career transition (or at least contemplating it) and he was picking my brain about my decision to leave college athletics and enter the private sector. He was genuinely interested in hearing about my story and also what I was up to in my career at that point. I never forgot the feelings I felt when he reached out and wanted to talk to me. I was humbled to think that I could help someone out and also excited to make a new connection.

Since that time, we stayed in touch and often discussed sports, brown drink and other common interests we shared. Mark was one of the first people I reached out to recently as I began looking for other career opportunities. He has been gracious in recent months to stay in touch to discuss careers, networking opportunities and of course bourbon. With that said, by the end of this blog I’m confident you will realize why Mark is such a great resource for me. I hope you enjoy the following tidbits and advice from Mark Hodgkin.

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?
It’s hard to point to any direct relationship between my degrees and my current role. Late in my undergrad career I realized I wanted to work in sports. That led me to a graduate assistant position at Bryant University doing marketing while getting my MBA. I had never considered an MBA until then, but believe it has been useful in my career. Even my BA in History, which doesn’t seem terribly practical, definitely helped my writing and reasoning skills. That was very helpful with my MBA and in a general sense after my career.

My shift to digital came after taking an internship at Boston College, which came just as schools were starting to hire digital-focused people. That was a bit of good luck and timing as it led to a seven year stint at the Big East/American Conference and my current role at NeuLion.

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?
I credit one of my mentors, Dennis Coleman, for suggesting that working in sports could be a viable career path around the time of my junior year in college. Until then, I was drifting along assuming I’d do something like teach, work at a bank or perhaps even go to law school. So I got a late start, but as Dennis told me, he “could open the door, but you have to prove you belong.” Ever since then I’ve been full into sports, but have been able to find my niche in it with digital media.

3) What’s your best piece of advice for today’s entry-level candidates?
It’s almost cliche at this point, but Network, Network and then NETWORK some more. Opportunities to advance will almost always correspond with relationships you’ve built. Relationships I’ve worked to cultivate have led to every job I’ve ever gotten. If you want to work in sports, it’s especially important as it is a very small, close-knit community.

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4) What do like the most about your profession?
The thing I like most about college sports are the passion of its followers and the community of people. I always try to take a moment to think about how many people pay to attend events that we call work. That’s not to say that it is easy or without serious challenges. But at the end of the day, most people have to work and I think what we do is special.

I also think people in college sports have been amazing to connect and learn from. I can’t speak for every other industry but am amazed at how many people take the time to talk shop and trade ideas in this space.

5) What is the biggest challenge you face in your profession?
Currently, it’s adjusting from a chair on a school or conference side to life at a tech company. While I interacted with digital partners in my last two jobs, the challenges on the inside are totally different. You’re trying to build a cutting edge platform that suits the needs of hundreds of partners, while living within the confines of a business. I’ve always worked with a broad array of people, but going more to the technical side has its challenges.

6) How has your industry changed during your time as a professional?
Thankfully for me, college sports has really gotten more focused on social and digital media. There are full-time positions everywhere and many now at a more senior level. What you’re seeing today from schools on the digital front is staggering. Take a look at the graphics today as opposed to just 3-4 years ago. It’s amazing and now something that almost all administrators and coaches see value in.

7) Why do people leave your field or company? Do you agree with why they leave?
Speaking from a college sports perspective, a lot of people leave because of the hours and often low pay. It can be hard to have that elusive “work/life balance” and I see people get burned out. The economics of the system obviously push the big bucks to head coaches in revenue sports and the long line of qualified applicants keep wages low for many others.

As far as why people leave, I can’t agree or disagree. We each have our own journey and I understand the desire to spend more time having “a life”. Though I do think it can be done, many struggle with the so-called balance.

8) Are you considering leaving your current field or company?
Absolutely not. A former colleague of mine always referred to what we do as the “toy section” of careers. It’s hard work and plenty challenging, but at the end of the day very rewarding.

9) What is your favorite social media platform?
From a usage perspective, it’s Twitter followed closely by Instagram. I love the connections with strangers who have often become real life friends. I love how we can talk about common interests as well as follow along with news and sports stories in real time. I do think there are some scary addictive symptoms of too much social media use so I try to keep that in check. A few months ago I got off social media completely for a full month and really enjoyed it. Now I try to be more mindful of the time I spend and how easily it can distract me from more important tasks.

From an observer of the space I have an amazing amount of respect for what Facebook (and its subsidiary Instagram) has built and run. When you stop to think how Mark Zuckerburg took a fairly run-of-the-mill idea and built it into a globally transformative company (as a 20-something with no business background) really is staggering. I tend to think what Facebook is today is just the start and can’t imagine what it will look like in five years.

10) What was the last book you read? The last TED talk or other e-learning content you consumed?
I read a ton. Typically a few books at a time. The best one I read recently was “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” by a very interesting writer named Cal Newport. His book “Deep Work” was also very interesting to me even though he’s a strong critic of social media. I don’t agree 100% with everything he says but think his perspective is important – especially these days.

11) Where do you receive your news and information?
I don’t subscribe to a print paper or watch much TV. Most of my information comes from Internet sources be it social media or curated feeds via something like Pocket or Feedly. I also have a subscription to the Washington Post on my Kindle and find that useful.

12) What are your hobbies? Do you wish you had more time to pick up a hobby?
For a time during my college career I seriously considered dropping out and pursuing a culinary degree so cooking is still a great hobby for me. I also read a ton and love playing golf when I have the time.

Professional Development Q&A With Lora Wey

This post is the sixth 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

Name: Lora Wey (@LoraWey)
Profession: Executive Director of Annual Giving at Illinois State University

I was first introduced to Lora Wey when doing research and prospecting for Verge Pipe Media, working to connect with those working in higher education annual giving. As an alum of Illinois State, I was thrilled to make a new connection with my alma mater and learn about their recent successes on Giving Tuesday. In fact, I profiled Lora previously to get her first-person perspective on how to run a successful giving day effort. You can read that article here.

Since our first interactions, Lora has been a great resource and sounding board for me on a variety of topics. She is one of the best in her industry and I am thankful that she is representing my alma mater and helping it become the preeminent public university in Illinois. I hope you enjoy the following tidbits and advice from Lora Wey.

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?
My degree was in international business and Spanish. I’ve worked in higher education  since I graduated college. Although not directly related to my degree, my liberal arts education and affinity for working with people prepared me well to learn the art and science of fundraising.

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?
I worked as an admissions counselor at my alma mater as my first job out of college. I knew I loved the school and was passionate about the college experience. I have never had a desire to leave higher education since. I have worked in this profession for 29 years.

3) What’s your best piece of advice for today’s entry-level candidates?
My advice is that your first job will not be your last. Be open to the experience and gain as much knowledge and experience as you can. It will be your springboard to the next chapter in your professional career.

4) What do like the most about your profession?
I like that our work changes lives every day. Not just the lives of students, but donors lives as well.

5) What is the biggest challenge you face in your profession today?
We can no longer depend on just a few channels of communication to resonate with donors. With the increased amount of not for profits and changing technology, we are forced to stay ahead of the curve in terms or messaging and creativity so that we remain a relevant giving priority to our alumni and potential donors.

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6) How has your industry changed during your time as a professional?
The biggest change is fewer donors giving more dollars. In order to sustain the pipeline, we need to grow our donor base. Telephone and direct mail are just a few of the many channels of communication in which we must be present. In addition, we no longer employ a one message fits all donors campaign. We must segment strategically in order to capture the attention of our audience.

7) Why do people leave your field or company? Do you agree with why they leave?
Perhaps they think more money can be made elsewhere. Many schools are experiencing financial hardship causing frozen wages. It becomes demoralizing to staff not to be rewarded year after year for your efforts.

8) Are you considering leaving your current field or company?
If I choose to leave it would not be for financial reasons, but for a different professional opportunity within higher education.

9) What is your favorite social media platform?
Facebook…I’m 50 years old and my friend base doesn’t utilize Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat etc. 🙂

10) What was the last book you read? The last TED talk or other e-learning content you consumed?
I am currently reading You Win In The Locker Room First by Jon Gordon and Mike Smith. Our leadership team is reading and reflecting on how their advice is relevant in the work we do as managers.

11) Where do you receive your news and information
Of the choices you gave us (Print Newspaper, Online Newspaper, TV, Twitter, Facebook or other) I definitely get my news from online newspapers and my Facebook feed.

12) What are your hobbies? Do you wish you had more time to pick up a hobby?
I volunteer with several not for profits in my community as an advisor to fundraising or mentoring. It energizes me.

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.