Why Real-time Engagement is a Top Priority for Businesses

Between 2014 and 2015, there has been a 110% increase in social media messages that require a response from a brand. As we bid goodbye to 2016 and move into 2017, this number is only going to increase even more in the coming years.

Real-time marketing hit the limelight with OREO’s 2013 Superbowl ad, and it has served as a path-breaking example in this arena. As a report by Intelligent Catalyst puts it, it seems to be time that we move further past the one-sided “push” of real-time marketing, to the more communicative “share” world of real-time engagement. It also mentions that fans on social media are looking not just for information, but also for answers, and that discussion and validation are other factors to keep them engaged.

Here are some strategies for businesses to engage effectively with fans in real-time:

Listening to the Customer

In harnessing the power of social media, most brands learn early on about the significance of listening to the comments and critiques from a fan base. The real power of Big Data lies in leveraging it to track and gauge what your followers are saying, and responding to these conversations suitably, maybe even proactively when possible.

Committing to a Focused Strategy

Real-time engagement is a strategy that the entire brand must commit to, and not the sole responsibility of the social media marketing team. Once this focus is achieved, the engagement comes through as genuine and would be recognised as such by the customers in the company’s fan base.  The Hertz case study is an instance of how a cross-company initiative for social engagement provided great results. Their belief that “Social media doesn’t stop, neither does travel, and neither should we” has inspired them to proactively reach out to customers, and blur the lines between service, marketing, and sales.

Choosing the Right Channel for Your Campaigns

It is important to choose your social channels wisely. While a cross-channel strategy works well for some brands or specific campaigns, other brands might have a much larger fan base on a single outlet like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. In such cases, it makes sense to focus your energy and investments on communicating with an existing fan base.

What to Watch Out for…

In the enthusiasm of engaging with fans and thinking up real-time engagement strategies, it is important to remember a few things:

  • Build a good fan base before releasing an important campaign. This might involve listening rather than broadcasting for a period of time, but it will be worth it in the long-term.
  • Do not focus only on trending topics and hashtags, but instead watch for the pulse of the customer and respond accordingly.
  • It is important to be factually correct and do research since it is difficult to move back from gaffes on social media, like the “giraffes in Ghana” example quoted by Steve Olenski in this Forbes article.
  • Remember that not all events are appropriate for brand engagement, and your sharing on social media must never be indiscriminate and just for the sake of grabbing eyeballs. This could tarnish your brand image in the mind of your customers and fan base. Take the example of a firearms brand like Beretta tweeting about 9/11, that just ended up sounding shallow and insincere.

Social media marketing remains a key factor that organisations must focus on, and real-time engagement is the new face of it. If a brand stays connected and listens to its customers, it is possible not just to expand your fan base, but to meaningfully engage with them as well. One must remember that although growing your fan base is important, maintaining your fan base is equally important. Proper engagement will help your brand to sustain its current fan base.

How Do I Create a Personal Brand?

Your personal brand influences how people associate to you, the impression you make, and essentially how people feel about you. While it remains important that you maintain your personal physical appearance by appearing neat and professional, it is equally important to realize that in this digital age, you also have to create and maintain your online personal brand. Happily, there are lots of things you can do to create the positive personal brand you desire, and then nurture it to give yourself the very best chance of success.

Deciding on Your Personal Brand

You can get an idea of the personal brand you want to create for yourself by thinking about people you admire. Identify a couple of people in business who you would like to emulate and have a look at how they market themselves. How do you feel when you see a Tweet from that person? What do you admire about them? What draws you to read their blogs? Think about how they reach their audience; that will help you to decide how to reach yours.

Creating a Digital Presence

Everything you do contributes to your personal brand, from meeting people face to face, to updating your status or posting a Tweet. To be recognisable digitally and give yourself the best chance of appearing on Search Engines, you need a professionally developed website. It will need to include a bio, your resume, and links to your social platforms. You will also need a great photograph and a headshot – professional shots are advisable to really capture you at your best. The world is moving on, but still, first impressions count! A picture of you looking good at what you do, and smiling or looking into the camera, is really going to help your personal brand.

Consider obtaining your own domain name. To do this, you need to check domain name availability using an online tool such as Go Daddy, Check Domain or Instant Domain Search. Remember, you can use your initial or middle name to stand out from other similar or identical names. The advantage of having your own domain name is that you own the content on your own site and have complete control of it, unlike with social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. People are more likely to trust a website URL that matches a name rather than a random URL. For those who are looking to start off with a simpler way, there’s always LinkedIn for you to start working on that profile presentation.

Reaching Your Audience

Think about who your audience is and what kind of content will attract them. Getting published and appearing as an expert in your field is an ideal way to promote yourself, and so is adding value to your brand by creating or curating content that is inline with your image. Consider writing a guest post for a company who is an expert in the field that you want to reach. Also, consider webinars to connect with people and offer to do free talks and seminars in person.

Cultivating Your Personal Brand

In the interest of consistency, make sure that the action you take online is in line with the brand you want to create and develop. This includes the tone of voice as well as the content of what you post and share. Remember not to engage with negativity as this can have a detrimental effect on the image you want to portray. Think about the emails you send and how they come across to recipients. Set up an email signature that includes your photo as well as your details. Your sign-off needs to look professional and load quickly on any email inbox server.

Personal Presentation

Think about your appearance; freshly laundered and ironed clothes and a neat professional appearance are always going to put you ahead of someone with chipped nail varnish and scuffed shoes. Be on time, be courteous and thoughtful. Have unique, creative, original business cards printed to ensure you stand out from the crowd as well. Leaving people with a great impression of you can only help your brand flourish and solidify!

How you want other people to see you depends on your future plans, your career aspirations and how you want your reputation to be perceived. Creating and developing a positive personal brand is vital to determining how other people see you. It will lead to more contacts, industry recognitions, and better opportunities. Spend some time creating and cultivating the personal brand you want to give yourself for the best chance of success in your chosen field.

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Leveling up the customer service experience with Facebook chatbots

Facebook has just made it even easier for its 900 million consumer and business users to connect with each other. Currently, consumers rely on Facebook Pages to learn updates and get in touch with their favorite brands, an opportunity that Facebook saw to introduce an easier way for both sides to interact. And so far, businesses have flocked to try out this latest offering.

The latest from Facebook comes in the form of bots, confirming TechCrunch’s scoop earlier this year that Facebook’s Messenger team has indeed been working to create programs of automated messages. Stan Chudnovsky, Facebook Messenger’s head of product, discussed during one of his interviews that the current state of communication between businesses and consumers online are seemingly highly robotic and the chatbots role is to improve that connection. Before, when chatting with a bot, you would simply be asked basic information whereas now you get more customized messages to help address your need.

Taking the Leap

Among the many businesses that have taken a shot at using Messenger’s latest platform is Dutch airline KLM who soon plans to allow customers to obtain their boarding pass directly through the app. Uber, on the other hand, has already gotten an early start with the service, now allowing customers to order rides via the app, adding greater convenience to its service offering.

An estimated 5,000 Shopify merchants are also distributing order confirmation and shipping alerts using Messenger’s platform. This only goes to show how e-commerce companies are eager to further engage Facebook’s almost one billion users.

What chatbots can do to level up the customer service experience

Using the platform’s new Send/Receive API, chatbots are able to send structured messages that include images, links and even call-to-action buttons. This means people can now perform tasks like make restaurant reservations, purchase tickets and even send flowers to loved ones all on one platform via means of messaging. There will be no payments allowed as of now though for fear of possible hacks and security breaches.

Businesses would also be able to send out sponsored messages ads to people who have started a conversation with their bot. Advertisers have an option of promoting the ‘click to message’ feature on Facebook’s newsfeed to attract target consumers to engage in a conversation with their bot.

Consumers need not worry about the chatbots getting too spammy as just like with ordinary chats with friends, there is also an option to silence notifications from the bot.

Chatbot Analytics on the Way

Alongside the chat feature, Facebook also introduced analytics to see how customers actually respond and engage with these chatbots. Given that the service is fairly new, such insights will help Facebook to continually improve its service and give the best online-customer service experience.

Chatbot analytics will also help programmers see the messages that most people find engaging or which call to action or messaging schedules come across as unappealing. This way, it’s win-win for both consumers and businesses.

The introduction of chatbots has led to many financial experts see Facebook potentially doubling up its revenues in a few years, if it can successfully bridge customers and advertisers using this app. This could lead to Facebook domineering the online market world and changing the way that many businesses manage their customers.

Rethinking Digital Advertising: 5 Outdated Trends You Should Avoid

From the late 1970s to the year 2015, the online world has seen many digital advertising techniques that stayed a few years and fizzled out soon after – these included electronic direct mailers, banner ads, pop-up ads, pop-under ads and lastly, pay-per-click ads. At a time when strategies ebb away before we know it, it’s important that online advertising budgets be allocated wisely.

We give you five out-dated advertising strategies and the reasons why you should stay away from them:

1. Creating mob content

Content for everybody – that pretty much sums up what mob content is. Run a search on Google and you see it. Scroll through your social feeds and you see it there too. Mob content is generalised content that a company creates which does not reach out to any one particular target audience In doing so, a company risks losing the interest of its readers. The only way for a company to stand out is by creating content that caters to the needs of its target audience.

2. Using out-dated platforms

Some platforms that were all the rage in the past have become irrelevant today because they cannot meet the needs of customers. Platforms like Friendster, MySpace, Xanga, del.icio.us, and Digg were once very popular, but have now lost their glory. It is important to be on platforms that are trending now. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, are some of the most popular websites to promote brands. A good strategy lies in being on social platforms that enable you to advertise your brand effectively while offering maximum exposure.

3. Linking URLs that land customers on the homepage

Traditionally, clicking on an advertising URL landed the customer on a brand’s homepage. The visitor had to navigate through the entire site to reach the product-page. People nowadays do not have the patience to navigate through your website upon landing on your homepage. They expect to be taken directly to the page they are interested in. Deep link your URLs to specific web-spaces so that the visitor lands on the product/service page directly, and not on the homepage of your website.  This way, customers need fewer clicks to check out their product.

4. Email bombing

Sending out mass emails will only land you in the spam folder. Companies need to categorise their audience into different demographic groups and send email campaigns to each with customised content (textual, audio and visual) that caters to that specific demography. Connecting on a personal level with customers will forge and sustain the latter’s interest in the brand. This will allow you to reach your customers and not end up in the spam folder.

5. Utilizing banner ads

Consumers today have developed what is called “banner blindness”. They ignore the banner ads, evident from the mere 0.06% click through rate that banner ads have received over the years.  Instead, produce authoritative content to inform the visitor of the product’s usefulness in their life, than to simply bait them with offers. Due to the intrusive nature of banner ads and the effect this has on people’s web experience, brands today cannot rely on this obsolete advertising avenue.

 

A look at the history of advertising shows a distinct pattern – every advertising strategy meets its expiry – there is no perfect advertising method, be it banner ads, push notifications, or pay-per-click ads. Every innovation gains popularity in the beginning, until it reaches a peak, where consumers only see them as distractions. This signals the point where companies need to start exploring new ways of advertising their products and services. When companies continue to follow obsolete forms of advertising, not only do they lose money, but also risk damaging their reputation and lose their existing customer base.

Current trends in digital advertising indicate that social media is an effective advertising platform. However, whether you invest in ads on social media platforms or other online ads like Google Search ads, it is crucial to keep an eye out for every minute detail. One must remember to not only have targeted content, but also content that provides value to customers. Remember to track your ad campaign to understand your return on investment and accurately gauge its effectiveness. The success of your digital advertising strategy lies in keeping with the times, and exploring the up and coming avenues to connect with your audience, while adding value to their lives and not treating them as a mere statistic.

My first 5 questions about social media marketing

“I’ve heard so much about social media marketing, but I don’t really know what it means or what I should do about it.”

When being introduced to the world of social media for the first time, it isn’t unreasonable to feel overwhelmed and confused at where to start. But in today’s world where so many of us have our faces buried deep into our smartphones during our commute and open Facebook in the morning like previous generations opened the newspaper, it is safe to say that social media marketing is indeed ingrained in our day to day lives. We’re either using it for our own businesses or are being influenced by it, whether you know it or not. It is practically unheard of to not have an online presence today but for smaller or local businesses that aren’t up to date yet, knowing where to start can be the tricky bit. So here are my first questions when approaching the subject.

1) What is Social Media Marketing?

Simply defined, it’s marketing where you gain traffic and attention to your website through social media tools and platforms. What’s more important for you to know is that social media marketing, or SMM, has transformed the way that consumers and brands communicate, allowing direct conversations between the two.

With so much choice on the market, customers need reassurance that what they’re buying into is the best possible choice for them. Using social media is an easy way to achieve this because people have always relied heavily on word of mouth and reviews and will continue to do so. This is where platforms like Facebook are perfect for this. If you’re posting something people find interesting, the content will be shared, friends will be tagged or comments will be made, which in turn appears on other people’s newsfeeds. Your brand name becomes increasingly familiar so people trust it and the product/service being offered. This results in more website traffic and attention generation for your brand.

2) How could it be beneficial to my business?

The main benefit to be involved in SMM is to increase brand awareness at little or no cost. We just have to look at the statistics to see that it’s crucial in today’s world to build an online presence and create relationships with your target market. 52% of online adults now use two or more social media sites and the number of worldwide social media users is projected to grow from 2.1 billion in 2015 to 2.5 billion by 2018. According to Search Engine Journal, marketers saw an increase of 74% in website traffic after devoting just 6 hours per week in social media. You establish yourself on your chosen channel and start to spread awareness of your brand but it doesn’t stop there. Social media generates leads too! Shifting your Page to a lead generation tool will impact the type of content you post and what kind of ads you run. By using information from your audience, you can then figure out how to attract them into your sales funnel and eventually turn them into paying customers.

3) What is the most effective platform for me?

The answer to this question depends on a number of things;

  • Where is my audience’s attention focused?
  • What type of content am I sharing?
  • How much do I intend to post?
  • How do I interact with customers?

Find out the best way to communicate with your target audience by knowing where they spend the majority of their time. The obvious choice of social media to begin with would be Facebook. It continues to be the platform with the most amount of users and is great for visual advertising. The downside is it’s easy to overload customers with information as people generally use these types of sites socially and don’t want to be bombarded with advertisements.

Once you’ve built up a following, you will need to keep them engaged by figuring out where you fit into their content viewing. For more frequent postings and faster interaction with customers, Twitter is the tool for the job. LinkedIn is clearly the place for professionals, businesses and recruiters. If you’re involved in a visual based industry like food, fashion or lifestyle, then Instagram is a must. Of course it could be beneficial to your business to use multiple platforms but it’s most important to first identify how to use them in different ways and whether these tools are relevant to your business and target audience.

4) Is maintaining a social media presence time consuming?

It doesn’t have to be! Once you know where you’re focusing your efforts and what content you’re sharing, there are a variety of tools available to schedule posts to be sent out throughout the day. With enough planning, content can be made ready and set to go weeks before it goes live. There are companies available to you that make your social media marketing a breeze. From managing company posts, blog writing to web hosting and software updates, these are marketing needs that an external agency can help cover that allows you to focus on your business whilst still reaching out and having your content viewed and shared.

5) How do I know we’re reaching our target market?

Many of the social media sites have native analytic tools that help you monitor which of your posts invite the most clicks and which get shared more than others. For example, Twitter’s ‘Tweet activity dashboard’ has in-depth metrics for users individual tweets and audience insights where you can actually track your follower growth over time see their top interests and discover their demographics. This data is essential for micro targeted campaigns. It will give you a better insight as to who your audience is, help you evolve the campaign and be posting content aimed at these followers. You can get other information such as what time your customers are browsing, allowing you to utilize those periods. The results you will get in sharing your content will see you gaining in earned media rather than paid media.

In researching the answers to all of my questions it became clear that creating a presence for your brand on social media is essential at this point in time and looks likely to be the case for a while. Figuring out how to use everything to get the optimum results is the key here and remember that it doesn’t have to be an effortful task. Using the tools available to you, you should be able to know your audience and from there it’s up to you to share relevant and interesting posts to keep your brand at the forefront of their minds. This will generate leads and your business will grow.

This is just the surface of SMM but the information is enough for you to begin to explore this avenue, to grab the attention of your future customers and start valuable conversations with them. Remember that social media gives you the opportunity to create more of a personal connection with your audience on the digital landscape – and there’s no better time than the present to get started.

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This blog piece was written by Curate Bee’s new bee member, Charlie Champ. Stepping into the world of digital marketing for the first time, Charlie has been introduced to new perspectives and has since taken quite a keen interest to the subject. This piece was inspired by Charlie’s first 5 questions she had when she first joined the team and is probably what many are thinking when they are starting out with social media marketing.

Got any comments or questions? Let Charlie know below!