What Are Brand Ambassadors and Why Are They Important?

Over the past few years, methods of reaching the target audience have changed significantly. While the marketers would probably prefer to hold to the times when TV commercials were most effective, the majority of people are getting used to new channels of promotion quite smoothly.

What was considered cutting-edge in the last years, doesn’t work anymore. The days of one direction communication are over. What’s become the latest trend in communication? Brand Ambassadors.

And by saying brand ambassadors, we not necessarily have big names in mind. Ok, they are Brand Ambassadors as well, but we want to focus on an individual who is not an Oscar-winning actor, but still has a significant impact on brand’s image. Let’s start from the beginning. People trust Brand Ambassadors. Companies (should) love them.

Who Is a Brand Ambassador?

We can define two types of Brand Ambassadors (aka Brand Advocates). The first kind makes famous and recognizable people hired by companies, where all the effort and input of such people is paid.

Such cooperation is planned step by step, strictly scheduled and forecasted. In that case, a brand ambassador is expected to be a very well-known individual to either masses or with particular lines of business.

Nowadays, brands are focused on bloggers (and YouTubers, Instagrammers) as very often they achieve similar marketing results as the “big names”. They offer space on their blogs, YT and Social Media channels, which turns out to be quite useful.

The second types of Brand Ambassadors are people who mention or recommend your brand freely. Sure, big names can do the same job, but not in the same way; the most significant difference between is that the former often do it all for free or on a non-cash exchange basis.

All they really get is satisfaction from being engaged in the brand. A Long-term relationship with the customer, free extras from the company or excellent customer service can be great incentives.

There are many ways to turn a regular customer into a Brand Ambassador. In return, he may become loyal (and write about you once or twice) or extremely loyal (and then they can call you their hero!). So, are they really that significant? Let’s take a closer look into it.

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Why are Brand Ambassadors So Important

Let’s go back to the beginning of this article for a moment. Brand promotion and image building can now be, at the same time, the hardest and the simplest than it ever was before.

How is that possible? Here’s the answer. The most difficult thing to overcome in TV advertisement is the fact that it became boring and predictable to the viewer.

Their first reaction, most often, is changing the channel as soon as they hear commercial break coming. The result is wasted time, money and resources.

What is more, brands that present only their positive aspects are not considered to be reliable (but it is hard to imagine that they would say much of the negative).

According to the survey below, the greatest effectiveness, 78%, is achieved through recommendations. Here is the power of a Brand Ambassadors.

If the audience realizes that the person promoting the brand is not being paid to do that, it is more likely, they will follow the advice. Work great. But remember. Acquisition of loyal brand ambassadors may be tough. It’s some “an award” for the magnificent and hard job.

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Now take a look at the “simplest part” of building an image. We live at times when the Internet is creating tremendous opportunities for all marketers.

We can make some buzz and (being lucky) hit the nail. With just a small budget, we can reach thousands of people and show them how cool we are. We have websites, social media fan pages, and profiles, where they will first go to check us out.

We don’t need tons of gold to be shown in good light. Also, out there, in the virtual world, our Brand Ambassadors live and express their impressions – credits, satisfaction, gratitude, encouraging to try and benefit from using product X.

They have an immense credibility as their opinions are perceived as being objective. People have no contraindications to follow those tips. Especially, if it is the first opinion on the brand, we’re looking for on the Internet.

Brand Ambassadors are not only the ones that make people eager to try a particular device. They build an image of your brand in micro- or (if a Brand Ambassador is an influencer – lucky you!) macro scale. How likely is it that an audience would believe a producer’s advertisement and not a real person who recommends it voluntarily?

How to Find and Deal with Brand Ambassadors

We appreciate verbal and phone recommendation. Although, as noted, Brand Ambassadors are most active on the web. You can find them on fora, in posts, articles, blogs, comments.

We have many fantastic tools that help us find people who will mention our brand. One of the best there available is Brand24. It’s a social media monitoring tool that is just beautifully easy to use. It gathers automatically all the data regarding your chosen keywords being used or mentioned and collects into clear reports. Want to be always up-to-date with all information that refers to your brand? It’s never been easier.

Anytime anybody types something about your brand, product or service, Brand24 will let you know about it. Also, this tool shows you most interactive mentions and most popular authors so you can engage them quickly. It’s extremely important being there first.

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Ok, so what can we do when we find an engaged user who chooses to recommend us? Thank them and thank them fast. You get extra points for two things: reacting swiftly and appreciating the efforts. By showing your interest, you communicate that you are aware of what your clients say about us and that the feedback is appreciated.

This is the first step. What will be the next one, it’s up to you. Depending on the size and type of recommendation you have a full choice of what to do further. Send them a gift. It doesn’t have to be a new car. A funny cup, a set of office tools, a free monthly access to an account in your application, a calendar.

Remember, whatever it is – it must be high quality and related to your company. Having a lot of Brand Ambassadors? That’s great! You don’t have to pretend you’re Santa Claus. Mention them in social media, leave a ‘thank you, Ann!’ below the comment. You need to estimate the scale and nurture them as you feel. And You should always take your Brand Ambassadors seriously.

The Summary

Nowadays, Brand Ambassadors mean the world to brands. As they put thousands of dollars on campaigns, agencies, and space/time, people who recommend them for free are a treasure of gold.

Fortunately, they are way easier to find than the precious metal. It is necessary to keep an eye on Brand Advocates, be thankful, appreciate, stay in touch, ask what more can be done and never underestimate the power of Brand Ambassadors.

Neglecting them is a sin against your brand reputation. Be as good as your audience is convincing that you are.

And what about you? Do you leverage brand ambassadors in your strategy? Perhaps you have some clever tricks how to deal with them. Let us know in the comments below.

This article originally appeared in The Positionly SEO and Inbound Marketing Blog.

 

This article was written by Magdalena Urbaniak from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

It’s #NationalSomethingDay – It Can Spice Up Your Social Media Marketing

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Today is #NationalSomethingDay.  It can spice up your social media marketing.  Are you posting or tweeting about it?  It seems that every day when I go on Twitter, it is #NationalSomethingDay.  In fact, often its more than one thing on any given day.  Yesterday it was #NationalLipstickDay, #NationalCheesecakeDay and #NationalChicekenWingsDay. Coming up on Sunday, August 2nd 2015 is #NationalFriendshipDay.  Seems we cannot go one day of the year without celebrating something and I’m okay with that. When it was #NationalHotdogday I excitedly text my partner so that he could go grab his $1 Chili Cheese Dog at Sonic. After all, junk food isn’t unhealthy if its a national celebration day, right?

I bring this up because one of the things I hear so often from my clients is that they simply don’t know what to post on their social media sites or they always post about their particular business.  For example, if you are a retail store you are always posting about your own specials, discounts, etc.  If you’re an attorney, everything is about legal issues and can get pretty dry.  If you’re a chiropractor its about the body and health.  Great info but most of us zone out when we see the same type of posts on a businesses page.  It’s hard enough to get your posts seen on Facebook these days.  These celebratory days should be a part of your social media marketing.

When you recognise a #NationalSomethingDay and add it to your social media posts you are bringing in a lighter, more fun element. You are mixing it up and that is okay.  Would the chiropractor or nutritionist post about #NationalHotdogDay?  Maybe not but certainly everyone can find something to say about #NationalFriendshipDay.  The All American #NationalIcecreamDay provided a host of local and national ice cream establishments that were giving away a favorite summertime dessert to celebrate the day. That would be something fun to inform your followers.

On Twitter, these #NationalSomethingDay trending conversations give you a way to enter the conversation.  Don’t sell, just tweet something like your favorite ice cream flavor and ask what other people’s favorite is.  On Facebook, talk about an experience related to whatever the #NationalSomethingDay is commemorating. Remember, you may be posting as your business but everyone knows there’s people behind the business – make it personal sometimes.  People want to KNOW whom they are doing business with.  People want to LAUGH and feel an affinity with those organisations they patronise.

Pinterest and Instagram offer an explosion of pictures and you can use these #NationalSomethingDay to reach out on those very visual platforms.  Not every business will be on these platforms but for those using them, have some fun.

The only platform I would recommend not engaging in #NationalSomethingDay would be LinkedIn. Too many people are using LinkedIn as they would Facebook and frankly, it is diluting the professionalism of LinkedIn and the meaningfulness of what is posted there. Unless its #NationalBossesDay or #NationalAssistantsDay, keep it off your LinkedIn profile.

Twitter is a great place to find out these #NationalSomethingDays and then I will Google them to see what articles come up to Tweet, Post or simply get some additional info.  In researching for this article, I also discovered the National Calendar Day website. Now that’s a gold mine of information for us all to get our share of food, fun and friendship days.  Use these celebratory days to spice up and change up your social media marketing.

Happy #NationalSomethingDay celebrating!

 

 

This article was written by Debbie Harris from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


Instagram Marketing: The Sky’s the Limit

The Goldmine That Is Instagram Marketing

Instagram marketing is becoming increasingly important for many brands, especially those in highly visual industries, such as retailers, restaurants, entertainment, and travel companies. The channel has seen explosive growth since it first appeared on the scene in 2010. New figures published by The Guardian show the photo-sharing platform’s monthly active user base has more than doubled in size over the past two years, with 500 million people a month worldwide now using Instagram.

Here is a quick look at why Instagram marketing matters, how companies can increase engagement across the platform, and how they can measure their successes.

So, Why Instagram?

Simply put, plain text is on its way out. Audiences want to experience visual engagement through pictures and videos that take no time to digest.

Instagram revealed that the app has more than 400 million monthly users, 80 million daily photos, 3.5 billion daily likes, and lots of opportunity to marketers. Forrester named Instagram the “King of Social Engagement,” citing that top brands’ Instagram posts generated a per-follower engagement rate of 4.2 percent—58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook, and 120 times more engagement per follower than Twitter. Instagram marketing is powerful as it allows our audience to visually consume ideas and make decisions about our brand without us being too pushy.

So how can we generate (and measure) ROI from Instagram marketing engagement?

Step 1: Content First

First, we need to share interesting content that resonates with our audience.

Bahamas Ministry of Tourism is a Meltwater client with a savvy Instagram marketing strategy. They used a stunning image of dolphins to demonstrate why they were named the #1 destination to encounter big animals while scuba diving. Rather than taking a picture of their award, they creatively snapped the dolphins “celebrating.”

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Whilst it’s great to showcase company successes, Social Media Today suggests marketers apply the 20/80 rule. 20% of posts should promote our products directly; the remaining 80% should promote our brand lifestyle. Schedule a healthy mix of posts that relate back to your brand with outside content that  is relevant to your audience. While Instagram consists of photo and video cotext-based images such as memes and quotes are a great way to bring a brand voice to life. Take a look at Fit Tea’s Insta account, the herbal tea company has many famous affiliates helping to promote its message, including the Kardashian clan. Even Ryan Gosling is also on hand to lend some encouragement!

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Instagram marketing can strengthen brand identity by offering a behind-the-scenes peek into the culture and lifestyle that surround our brand. Showcasing employees is an easy way to add a personal edge to Instagram marketing and aid recruiting. Take a look at Meltwater’s Instagram account. We love sharing pics from special events along with office snapshots of #MeltwaterLife.

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Aim to get customers involved and ask them to show off photos of themselves interacting with the brand or using our product. Consumers trust their peers more than brands themselves. A social media post demonstrating the value of a product is worth more than any ad. Coco White Tooth Whitening Oil leverages user-generated content, such as this photo testimonial, to prove worth without talking about themselves directly, Never underestimate the power of a double tap!
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Step 2: Wise Words

Use captions wisely. If Instagram is all about a company’s identity, then the caption adds context to the visual. Don’t state the obvious; share the story behind the picture. Remember that people only read the caption once the image has their attention.

Hashtags are essential as they make your post discoverable, as does location tagging! While Instagram allows for up to 30 tags, common consensus recommends 1-5 tags per post so we don’t #spam. If you must add more, write them in the comments so they are searchable but stay hidden after more people start commenting. Keep in mind that Instagram currently does not allow links in captions, only one link in your profile . However, this is changing with the arrival of Instagram business accounts.

Step 3: Be Exclusive

Post exclusive discounts or content on Instagram to give potential fans an incentive for visiting your page. Deals or contests are a tangible way to drive traffic and increase engagement while solidifying your following. Reap the benefit of having a network of people talking about them on their personal pages by encouraging users to share photos with your hashtag.

I’ve Increased Engagement.. Now What?

There’s no way to know if you have increased engagement without monitoring Instagram marketing efforts. Engagement analytics help marketers understand which types of posts our audience likes most, so we can can better focus our strategy. Not one to be left behind, Meltwater launched Instagram media monitoring this year, allowing customers to monitor mentions and keep track of engagement in real time.

In conclusion, remember that Instagram marketing is all about creating a company’s visual identity. Be true to the brand and promote the lifestyle. Engagement will follow.

Growth Hacking for Marketers: What Is Growth Hacking and Why Should You Care

The name of the game in today’s business scene is growth. Marketers are struggling to find ways to compete in an overcrowded marketplace. Business leaders want big results in the way of increased traffic, more engagement and improved lead generation.

The pressure is on for marketers. How can we deliver to such high expectations?

Many marketers are turning to growth hacking. The business world has been buzzing about it since Sean Ellis coined the term in 2010. As he put it, “A Growth Hacker is someone whose true North is Growth.” He presented the concept of getting scrappy and scouring the internet and social platforms for opportunities to get noticed, reach more people, generate more leads and grow our businesses – fast.

Ever since Ellis presented the idea of growth hacking, companies around the world have been clamoring to understand the concept and trying to figure out how to apply it to their own businesses. But what IS growth hacking? What defines a great growth hacker? And, perhaps most importantly, how can you get started with growth hacking?

Growth Hacker vs. Marketer: What’s the Difference?

“A growth hacker is not a replacement for a marketer. A growth hacker is not better than marketer. A growth hacker is just different than a marketer.” – Sean Ellis

A Growth hacker’s goal is to get his product in front of as many people as possible and do it in a way that entices them to convert to leads or subscribers. Sounds like a marketer, right? The difference is that a marketer looks at the big picture as a whole. She considers product, price, place and promotion. She uses all elements of the marketing mix. She works to create valuable content and deliver it to prospective leads in order to create new customers.

In contrast, a growth hacker has a much narrower focus. He is programmed, if you will, to take all of the resources produced by the marketer and use them to simply reach, engage and convert audiences en masse. At which point, the marketer can jump back in and nurture the growth hacker’s new leads.

The Anatomy of a Growth Hacker

Growth hackers are comprised of a unique mix of characteristics. They are creative but pragmatic. They’re analytical, but extremely fast-paced. As one Forbes article about growth hacking put it, “Growth hackers are principled hackers who study how people use a product and continually test and optimise every digital touchpoint in order to get prospective customers to take action.”

Interested in learning more? Here’s a breakdown of some typical traits of successful growth hackers.

Creative Problem Solvers

Growth hackers are constantly thinking of new ways to solve problems. They ask themselves questions and actively seek out creative answers. They are curious by nature, which leads them to continuously search for new channels, media, platforms and methods to distribute content.

Nimble & Quick

To be a successful growth hacker, you must think and act very, very quickly. There’s no time for a lot of strategic planning, action mapping or documentation. Yes, these are all important elements of any marketing strategy, but growth hackers must use them as an umbrella. They must be aware of the bigger picture of the goals and objectives of the overall marketing plan, but live and act in the here and now; making quick decisions in the moment that will capitalise growth opportunities.

Optimistic & Competitive

There’s no room for pessimism here. Successful growth hackers are eternal optimists, always believing that the next big win is right around the corner. Their competitive nature drives them to continuously seek out new opportunities to outperform the competition. They are ambitious, confident and believe that their big, hairy, audacious goals for growth are possible.

Tech Savvy

It’s not enough to exhibit all of the traits mentioned above. True growth hackers are all of these things AND they’re tech savvy, too. They are on top of new technologies, services, products and communities and are among the first to try them out. They have a solid understanding of SEO, social media, mobile content consumption, conversion rate optimisation and general digital marketing. They’re always eager to try something new and see what it can do for the growth of their brands.

Why You Should Care

Many of the world’s most popular brands have achieved incredible results with growth hacking.

First to the scene was Hotmail. By adding, “P.S I love you. Get your free email at Hotmail” in 1996, the then-startup founders secured 3,000 new users one day and within 6 months they had 1 million. 18 months following its launch, Hotmail was purchased by Microsoft with 8.5 million users.

Next in the line of big-name growth hacking companies came Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest and Instagram. Surely they couldn’t repeat the same success as Hotmail, right? Wrong. Using growth hacking tactics, they achieved the following jaw-dropping results, as well as many more, I’m sure.

Twitter

Twitter added 60,000 users in one day by obsessively looking for ways to grow and optimise every possible touch point. For example, Twitter realised that the odds of a new user returning to the platform increased dramatically if they followed at least 10 people immediately upon signing up. So, it included suggestions of some of the top people to follow as part of the Twitter signup process. The result? User retention rates went up significantly.

Twitter’s success is also proof that growth hacking doesn’t have to be complicated; it just has to be smart. Case and point, one of the company’s highest performing growth hacks was as elementary as simplifying its homepage. The once complex page was streamlined to focus on getting visitors to either sign up or log in. With that simple change, Twitter’s conversion rates increased dramatically.

Facebook

Facebook gained 200 million users in 12 months. How? Through a combination of three primary growth hacking tactics:

  1. Providing users with embeddable Facebook badges or profile widgets to post on their websites and blogs. These widgets leveraged Facebook’s existing user base to deliver billions of impressions per month for Facebook, leading to hundreds of millions of clicks and ultimately millions of signups.
  2. Buying service providers in third world countries. While not an option available to many companies today, it’s an interesting strategy. At the time, media and Facebook followers were dumbfounded. But Facebook had a growth hacking plan to purchase these companies to gain access to their technology, which would help procure more email addresses.
  3. Strategically gaining highly desireable new Facebook users. The company reached this coveted target market through creative, yet inexpensive advertising. Reportedly, the campaign was so successful that the advertising network Facebook used asked Facebook to change its method.

These are just two examples of countless companies that have realised exceptional results with growth hacking. LinkedIn experiences 37% annual revenue increases, Pinterest generated 70 million users in 3 years, Instagram attracted 110,000 followers in 5 months… The success stories go on and on.

In addition to producing such mind-boggling statistics, many companies like growth hacking because it’s scrappy. Relatively speaking, it requires very little resources; especially considering the results it can achieve. Many free or low-cost online tools are available to support growth hackers. Additionally, a lot can be achieved with just a couple of talented growth hackers.

How to Get Started with Growth Hacking

So are you convinced yet? Do you think growth hacking might be beneficial for your company? Great! As you get started with growth hacking, you need to know that there is really no one “thing” or any single proven strategy that will achieve success for everyone. Personally, I find this both exciting and frustrating. It means that you’ve got to find the right recipe for your company – and continuously tweak it over time.

The trick is to understand the concept of growth hacking is to continuously try new things. Stay in touch with what is working for other brands. Test new ideas. Review the data these tests produce. See what works and what doesn’t. Rinse and repeat.

The formula varies from company to company, right along with their products and services, audiences, industry, size, etc. This is why it’s so important to be nimble, quick and ambitious as a growth hacker. You’ve got to have a lot of irons in the fire, so to speak, and constantly look for new ways to grow.

All of that said, here are a few tips and tricks to try as you get started with growth hacking.

  • Start with simple measurable goals that you can easily track and report, such as clicks, traffic and form submissions.
  • Use what you’ve already got. Look at your existing content and identify new places to share it, as well as ways you can add opportunities to convert right within the content.
  • Maximise opportunities to test. If you have tools available to conduct A/B testing on your site pages, with your emails, with social posts, etc., do it! Test constantly and review the results to see how you can continuously improve.
  • Aim to produce a few quick wins and then take the results to other team members and leadership to gain buy-in. With their support, take steps toward bigger growth hacking tactics.

Whatever path you take, remember that growth hacking is a process, not a set of tools. Finding the right formula for your company takes time and there’s no magical silver bullet. Success rarely looks like a perfect curve; in reality it looks more like a heartbeat with lots of ups and downs. Focus on maximising the “ups” and you’ll see great results over time.

 

This article was written by Lindsay Tjepkema from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


The Death Of Brand Loyalty: Cultural Shifts Mean It’s Gone Forever

In the old days, consumers would find a brand that did what it promised: perhaps Tide detergent to erase grass stains, Bounty paper towels to wipe up spills, or Frosted Flakes to start the school day right. In the absence of a particular brand failing or a dramatic price disparity from a branded competitor, consumers would continue to purchase the same brands week after week, month after month, year after year. In the busy, sometimes overwhelming lives of primary grocery shoppers, a brand earned its place in the pantry or laundry room or refrigerator, and consumer packaged goods manufacturers were rewarded with consistent purchase.

If a café selling a $7 bowl of Frosted Flakes, or installation of a button to order toilet paper in every bathroom seems senseless and/or desperate, think about the implications of even slight erosion of loyalty to multibillion-dollar CPG concerns like Procter & Gamble, Unilever, General Mills and Kellogg’s. Among the top 100 CPG brands, 90 experienced share declines, according to a 2015 study by Catalina, a leading digital and consumer loyalty firm. Take a moment to let that soak in …90% of the leading household goods brands are losing market share on consistently low-growth categories.

The atrophy of certain segments of dusty categories like ready-to-eat cereal due to decreased relevance is understandable. Whereas cold cereal was once thought a quick breakfast that kids could prepare for themselves, it’s now an inconvenient, carb-heavy option that requires the presence of milk, generates dirty dishes, and can’t be transported out the front door.

But declining market share among 90% of the top brands can’t be explained away by a 20-year evolution in breakfast behavior. The erosion of consumer loyalty among the most esteemed brands represents a changed philosophy of buying. The standard for brand switching is no longer the failure of a brand to perform but rather its inability to seem like an entirely new and interesting option at every single purchase cycle.

(AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

What Killed Brand Loyalty?

Consumers are not inclined to be loyal to brands as they once were because the underlying value of loyalty itself is no longer particularly relevant. In the old world, loyalty was good and something we aspired to give and receive across all aspects of life . . . with friends, family, employers, dentists, doctors, bankers, and maybe even the federal government. But generational experiences have made sticking with “tried and true” a sucker bet. Loyalty means remaining the same. Not exploring alternatives. Putting your head in the sand and maybe even missing a beach party.

Over the last three generations, major trends in marriage, religion, politics, and corporate America have reframed expectations for surviving and thriving in this world. The consistent theme is that change is not something to be feared or avoided. Change is inherently good. And the hankering for change is increasing at an accelerated rate.

The historical concept of loyalty as a value is hinged in the desire for long-term connections and mutual trust on both sides of the equation. The reasons we believed that loyalty was an important social value are no longer valid.

To wit, here are five trends where “new and different” are usurping “tried and true.”

Work

Generations ago, loyal employees were celebrated with gold watches and retirement parties. Then corporate layoffs became the more common method of exit. Both employers and employees learned that their relationship was more practical than sentimental. The labor force has gradually gotten more comfortable with a new standard. It would be tough to find a millennial today with the remotest interest in working for any company for 30 years. In the spirit of “you’re not the boss of me,” more people are self-employed than ever before. Today, 15.5 million people are currently self-employed as independent contractors, according to the latest report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The trend is projected to accelerate rapidly, with 60 million people (or 40% of the total workforce) working for themselves by 2020.

Religion

Many no longer feel the need to commit to a dogma. Spiritual beliefs are fluid, with “nothing in particular” as the most popular answer to a Pew Research Center survey on religion. Adults who say they are atheists or agnostic now constitute 23% of the population, up from 17% just 10 years ago. One third of millennials say the same. On a practical level, this trend is not just about the beliefs themselves but about behaviors and connections associated with a particular place of worship. On an episode of the show 30 Rock, the character played by Tina Fey was once asked her religion. She answered, “I pretty much do whatever Oprah says.” Why go to a communal service when Super Soul Sunday is so readily available to view alone anytime?

Romance

More than 50% of millennials grew up with divorced parents, and 41% grew up with parents who were never married at all. Both they and their parents know firsthand that “happily ever after” is just for old Disney movies. But beyond the stats is the change in perceptions from viewing broken relationships as failures, instead of  shared experiences on life’s journey. Families are blended and iterative. No need for judgment of the new normal.

Corporate America

We have all seen some fairly appalling behavior among once-revered corporate executives and politicians. Scandals in those arenas certainly aren’t new, but due to the 24-hour news cycle, more people know about more impropriety than was ever before possible. Millennials particularly tend to distrust the government (82%), the press (88%), and financial institutions and corporations (86%). The belief that big is bad is directly correlated to why long-established products and services are suspect compared to start-ups and innovators, and the endorsement of online strangers is more motivating than a corporate endorsement.

Thinking Itself

We are literally  no longer wired to stick with what we know. Daily use of technology has actually changed the way brains work, disproportionately so among the generation that learned to think with it. David Levy, a professor at the Information School at the University of Washington, calls the phenomenon “popcorn brain,” describing brains so accustomed to the constant stimulation of electronic multitasking that consumers attempt to replicate the experience offline, where things “pop” at a much slower pace.

Change Wins

The theme of all of these trends could be characterized as distrust, but the reality is actually sanguine. “New” is better than “known.” This is where the rubber hits the road for established CPG players, who have long lead times, massive capital requirements, and public shareholders. Whipping up constant and meaningful news about 100-year-old products is not easy. So while initiatives like Kellogg’s Time Square Café, Tide’s direct-to-consumer detergent pods, and shampoo bottles with technology that liberates every last drop from the bottle may not be transformative, but they might still be worthwhile.

High Stakes

There is $6.2 trillion globally in near-constant play due to accelerated brand shifting according to a report from Accenture. Two thirds of consumers surveyed said that the number of companies or brands they consider when making purchase decisions has increased significantly compared with 10 years ago.

The preference for “new and different” is well known to the Procter & Gambles, General Mills, and Kimberly-Clarks of the world that are making acquisitions, unloading what can’t be resuscitated, and funding their own VCs. They recognize that establishing and maintaining loyal connections between consumers and their brands is becoming less and less realistic. Instead, those companies must continue to transform their offerings to treat each and every purchase occasion as a victory and invest in innovation that meets a constant need for change. Lifetime consumer loyalty is no longer a valid goal in the world of CPG because as much as it suits manufacturers, it’s simply no longer relevant to consumers.

 

This article was written by Kathleen Kusek from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

6 Social Content Sharing Techniques You’ve Probably Forgotten

The great bloggers and SEO professionals at Search Engine People recently published an article with an eye-catching headline: “37 Ways to Promote Your Blog Posts.” Of course this post drew our attention, for the same reason that it’s probably drawn yours: 37 seems like an awful lot! After all, we’re all aware of the need to share company blog posts on Facebook and Twitter, on LinkedIn Pulse and in e-mail newsletters… but can there really be 37 avenues for content sharing?

As it turns out, there are—but what really impressed us about the post is the sheer number of practical, common-sense solutions that we all know about but most of us have forgotten. In our zeal to implement all the most complex and sophisticated content sharing techniques, it seems that we may be forgetting about some of the basics.

Consider some of the following content sharing techniques. None of them are new or revolutionary—but we fully admit to forgetting about them from time to time! Perhaps we’re not alone…

Content Sharing Methods We All Tend to Forget

  1. Friends and family. Do you have people in your life who are interested in you, who support you, and who love you no matter what? Likely so—and Search Engine People wisely points out that these people will probably be more than happy to read your latest post and maybe even offer some helpful feedback. Why not send it to them directly?
  2. Colleagues. “Does your company have a blog?” Search Engine People asks. “Do you contribute to it? If you answered ‘Yes’ to both questions, then go ahead send your coworkers a link to your recently published post.” Make sure your coworkers know what’s going on with the company blog, and encourage them to share the post on their own social channels.
  3. Twitter. Yes, you probably share all your blog posts on Twitter as is—but do you do so more than once? An automatic update isn’t sufficient; share each post several times over the span of a couple weeks. (But don’t overdo it: Three or four total shares is probably a good target.)
  4. Presentations. Giving a talk or a pitch to clients or colleagues? Why not work in a mention of your company blog? Position it as a value-adding professional resource.
  5. E-mail signature. Promote recent posts within your e-mail signature. Says Search Engine People: “Most email signatures contain just a general link to the blog or company’s website. Make it more interesting by including a link to a specific piece of content. You don’t have to update your signature every time a new blog post goes out, but maybe every time you launch a major content campaign.”
  6. Instagram bio. You can’t actually post links in Instagram posts, but you can remind users to check out the blog link in your profile.

Of course, there are plenty of other ways to share content—but if you’re not using these foundational techniques, add them to your arsenal starting today!

 

This article was written by Amanda Clark from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


How to Keep Press Releases Fresh Day in Day Out: 6 PR Tips from Doctor Who

Nowhere is brand loyalty, and it’s corollary, fandom, more on display than at San Diego’s Annual Comic-Con, which took place this past weekend. If you work in the television, film, or the comic book industry (or are maybe a voracious consumer of the aforementioned) you probably were there or at the very least, pressing refresh on your search bar.

The kind of brand loyalty on display at Comi-Con isn’t easy to come by. Keeping journalists and fans excited about our brands year after year (or in Doctor Who’s case, decade after decade) takes determination and creativity. Having a perennial hit like Doctor Who, known for originality and quirkiness, to play off of might make things easier, but for many of us it feels that we’re mired in telling our brand stories in exactly the same way as we did last time and not all that differently from how other companies are telling theirs. In Whovian parlance, the Daleks, old skool nemesis of Doctor Who, whose annoying and repetitive cries of “Exterminate! Exterminate!” give voice to our own creative frustrations as we continue running in circles.

shutterstock_356462720.jpgDaleks with their cries of, “Exterminate! Exterminate!” have the most repetitive and boring lines of the Doctor Who universe.

After all, if you’re not amped about your PR campaign, how can you expect your audience to sit up and take notice?

At times like these, it’s helpful to take a step back to ask: How would Doctor Who break out of the usual brand story narrative?

  1. Get outside of your surroundings (to get outside of yourself). Doctor Who has a time machine in the form of a blue British police box, and when feeling listless, he’ll take off to a faraway planet and time to explore. At least that’s his intention. As PR pros, we can follow his example by changing up our surroundings. If you can, take some time out—even if that’s only 20 minutes—to walk around the block or grab some coffee at a nearby cafe. Anything to pull you out of your immediate environs. Sometimes a new location can help with fresh perspectives.
  2. Mix things up. The Doctor is known for consistently regenerating into another body (and as another actor, now on the show’s 12th). When this happens, the new Doctor changes up his moral and dress code, which informs his values, his choice of companions, and how he uses his sonic screwdriver, the interior of his TARDIS, and his catchphrase(s). Taking a page from this playbook, consider approaching your campaigns and press release from different points of view. Tell your brand story in a different way. Could you tell your story more visually, instead of with the traditional press release format to win your audience over? Can you draw from new data sets, or expand your referral base?
  3. Make sure you have the right tools. The Doctor has his trusty TARDIS and sonic screwdriver to help him solve most problems. In circumstances where things seem bleak, like in “Blink” as the Weeping Angels descend around Sally Sparrow and it looks like there is no way out, he can count on his tools to come through for him. In this case, the TARDIS suddenly appeared to save Sally from certain time erasure. The modern PR pro needs to have a trusty wire service and a media monitoring platform to rely on. Sometimes looking at trends in your industry or via a social listening platform can surface stories and interests that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to detect. That’s why you need to have alerts set and frequently scan your listening software.
  4. Partner when it makes sense. Offscreen, the Doctor mostly travels alone. As a time traveler from a faraway planet who has been alive for thousands of years, he invariably gets lonely. When he meets inquisitive and adventurous people that he feels a connection to, he’ll ask them to accompany him on adventures. As PR people, we can also seek out partners to share our burden. Coauthoring press releases show we’re engaged in our industry-at-large while reinforcing each partner’s respective thought leadership positions. We not only expand our reach by partnering but also broadcast an implied mutual trust. By this, our partnership makes it easier for new audiences to feel this same way.
  5. Keep on brand, but allow yourself to change and grow. Every reincarnation (or regeneration) of the Doctor has a uniform and catchphrase that acts as his stock brand. The leather jacket wearing 9th Doctor would never don a light sports coat and celery in his lapel in the vein of the 5th. And as far as catchphrases go, the 10th Doctor uses “Allons-y!” (French for “Let’s go!”), when racing to prevent the certain annihilation of modern day earth, unlike the 11th Doctor, who prefers, “Geronimo!” when in similar situations. Can your brand change and grow without alienating your core audience? Don’t forget old customers as you try to create value for new ones.
  6. Once you make the leap, be sure footed. When faced with a new challenge, sometimes the Doctor is uncertain of what tactic to take to solve overcome it. But once he makes up his mind, he stops hesitating. When you start down the path toward making your campaign happen, choose active words. If, for instance, you’re writing a press release, throw your message down and edit and re-edit. Remove any expression of doubt or uncertainty from your language, eliminate words like “just” or “might”. Don’t refer to the act of writing or reading (for example, “we’re writing you to let you know,” or “we thought you might be interested in reading about”). You’re speaking directly to your audience, feel the power of your message and they will too.

TARDIS

Doctor Who’s TARDIS in Cardiff, Wales

Being inspired by a time traveler from a faraway planet can help you get outside of your PR comfort zone, yielding engagement with an injection of creativity and newfound commitment. Allons-y!

How to Embed Podcasts, Tweets and More on LinkedIn!

LinkedIn is done kidding around.

The world’s largest professionally themed social network recently made what could be a game-changing upgrade to its publishing platform.

Here’s the scoop: You can now directly embed Tweets, Podcasts, Polls, Charts, Vines, Videos, Presentations and much more directly inside a LinkedIn blog post. 

How It Works

LinkedIn has made this incredibly simple.

All you need to do is copy-and-paste the URL of the content you want to embed, and LinkedIn’s built-in blogging CMS (Content Management System) does the rest.

(Make sure you go out and view this live post on LinkedIn to see how all this works and looks on the platform.) 

Content You Can Embed on LinkedIn Now Includes:

  • Tweets
  • Podcasts (via SoundCloud)
  • Polls (via PollDaddy)
  • Charts (via ChartBlocks)
  • Videos (YouTube, Vimeo)
  • Slide Presentations (SlideShare)
  • Vines
  • And more!

GIFs Have Also Arrived!

You can even put animated GIFs, or animated, moving images that loop over and over, directly into LinkedIn blog posts … something previously only available within the LinkedIn newsfeed and via 1-on-1 LinkedIn messages to another person.

Now, if you jump over to LinkedIn to see this post in a “live” environment on the platform, you’ll note the examples I’m sharing there are (mostly) goofy and entertaining. With that said, the business and personal branding possibilities are limitless.

Why This Matters So Much

LinkedIn is dead serious about becoming a one-stop content shop for professionals worldwide to get the news, views and insights that relate to their specific industries, types of professions, areas of the world and more.

In addition to bringing in A-List media partners like The New York Times to supply articles and celebrity “LinkedIn Influencers” like Bill Gates and Oprah to blog on the platform, LinkedIn also gives you and me (and 400 million other professionals in 200 countries) the ability to create and share our own original content on the platform.

It’s a brilliant strategy – in addition to having high-end, respectable news partners and celebrity bloggers, LinkedIn taps the global marketplace to provide additional insights, opinions and content at no cost to LinkedIn.

The “win” for you and I, of course, is exposure for our original content and the ability to demonstrate our credibility, expertise and insight to a targeted audience of professionals who will likely be interested in our products and services at some point in the (near) future.

(The key to this, of course, is having a content marketing strategy in place and understanding how to use your content as an entry point for people to learn about you and the products or services you provide!)

It’s the perfect situation, and I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities ahead when it comes to creating and sharing content over on LinkedIn.

Why LinkedIn Is Doing This?

It’s simple, really.

The more time we spend on LinkedIn creating, consuming and sharing all this content, the more LinkedIn can charge for the display Ads that appear all over the site.

Also, the more deeply we engage with and consume content that carries specific tags, themes or keywords, the easier it is for LinkedIn to (hopefully) create more targeted and relevant Display Ads, Sponsored Updates or InMails to put in front of us.

In addition, think about all the time we already spend on LinkedIn to find a job, hire someone, do online education and training (via the Lynda.com acquisition), and it’s obvious … LinkedIn has the potential to become the professional equivalent of Facebook.

I, for one, love the new publishing upgrades – it makes it that much easier to create, share and directly embed original content that can set you apart from the competition, build your personal and professional brand and attract new clients and customers.

Can’t wait to see how you decide to utilise all these new features inside the publishing area. Make sure you invite me to connect over on LinkedIn and send me some examples once you’ve had time to create some new posts!

 

This article was written by John Nemo from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Getting It Right: Best Practices for Brands Giving Apologies

Forever burned in my memory is a certain sign about apologies that hung on the wall at my first fast-food job. It read:

Proper apologies have three parts:

1) What I did was wrong. 2) I feel badly that I hurt you. 3) How can I make this better?

The adage isn’t particularly mind-blowing, so I’m not sure why it stuck so securely in my memory. Maybe for the simple fact that one spends a lot of time at fast-food jobs staring at the wall. But it does address three important aspects of apologies – sincerity, simplicity, and thoroughness. When someone has been wronged (or even if they just believe that they have been), they want the response to have all three of those elements.

But as a brand, apologies can be tricky.

Many people see companies – especially large ones – as cold, impersonal monoliths, only noteworthy when they’ve erred. So when those inevitable errors do occur, crafting an apology that returns some public goodwill can be difficult.

Whether or not this is accomplished is, of course, dependent on many factors – first and foremost being the infraction committed. If the crime is egregious enough, conversations about crafting the right apology are irrelevant and silly. For example, it’d be absurd to imagine Bernie Madoff worrying about recapturing his public image from behind bars – it’s too far past that point.

But in most cases, companies who’ve fallen from grace do have incentive to stay in the PR trenches, so to speak, and fight for that goodwill. When this happens, the first step is that famed brand apology. It’s a tactic that’s so well-tread that at this point it’s cliché.

Beyond that lie many factors more specific to the brand itself. For example, what is the history of its corporate social responsibility measures?

The traditional notion is that brands apologizing for a first-time offense are given a bit more understanding than repeat offenders. This makes sense, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to fit brands into neat categories such as those.

Tone

Maintaining the right tone is important for more than just apologizing, but it can be of particular importance in those situations. It’s best defined as the “taste” left in the “mouth” of your audience. It is a deciding factor in whether your apology elicits an emotional response or falls flat.

For a long time, brands were afraid to show personality in all aspects of their branding. The bigger the business, the less likely there would be any personal touch to corporate communications. Eventually, that ideology was left in the dust; too many companies realized the importance of creating genuine engagement with a strategically targeted audience.

apologies

When apologizing for a misstep, brands have to walk a fine line between individualism and aloofness. If a company has spent considerable time building a fun-loving brand, it can be difficult and jarring for it to immediately pivot into the grave, conciliatory tone that a good apology often requires.

Another fine line for brands to walk is the one between combativeness and weakness. What if a brand is publicly criticized for something that’s genuinely not true? It can be tough to know when to defend against the allegations and when to immediately start seeking public reappraisal and forgiveness. Typically, PR experts err towards the more cautious latter route, wanting to avoid giving off a hostile or unpleasant image.

One famous counterexample occurred earlier this year when Amazon was forced to contend with a scathing exposé by The New York Times of its “toxic workplace culture and unfair expectations placed on employees.”

After initially taking a more traditional route ‒ a mildly defensive press release and a series of bewildered “This isn’t the Amazon I know” tweets from CEO Jeff Bezos ‒ the company took a boldly aggressive next step. Jay Carney, the head of PR and former White House press secretary, wrote an intense, attack-filled blog post that questioned the character of both the journalists who wrote the article and the ex-Amazonians who were profiled.

While the tone wasn’t typical of a major brand digging itself out of a PR crisis, many experts actually cited the post as a positive thing; an example of how important it is to fight for your brand, especially when you feel the truth is on your side.

Timing

When brands apologize, there can be a temptation to get the press release out as quickly as possible. This makes sense because the news cycle only has so much room for one brand or story, so it’s possible to wait too long and find that the public has already moved on. In those cases, it may be too late to recoup any of the lost brand strength.

But there’s also something to be said for letting the dust settle before starting the brand apology process. When the media first gets its hands on a story, certain outlets will inevitably make some errors in judgement and publish information that hasn’t been thoroughly fact-checked. For many brands, it’s a good idea to wait for some of that kind of reporting to finish before delivering a well-researched, fact-based apology.

For one thing, the company will appear more measured and less reactionary, a far more appealing look in the eyes of the public. Also, these situations can often result in legal proceedings. If a company is facing risk of legal action, it’s wise to consult with counsel before delivering any kind of apology that could potentially be used against it in a court of law.

Format

Just as technology has drastically changed the way brands market themselves, it’s also transformed how they handle their inevitable public relations crises. The days of simply sending out a press release and “waiting out the storm” are long gone. Companies reach their audiences on many different channels now, so it’s important to use some combination of strategies that will get your apology heard by as much of that audience as possible.

Social channels like Facebook and Twitter (more on this specifically in a bit) allow brands to appear more human because they are the places where humans actually interact with one another.

Action

Part of the problem with generic, cookie-cutter apology formats is that they don’t leave room for specifics. When a brand has been publicly shamed, the most important part of the next step is to demonstrate to the public that there are legitimate actions being taken to improve. It’s a tired but true cliché: actions speak louder than words.

A good example of this from 2015 was Apple’s swift response to criticism for their decision to not pay artists for songs streamed on Apple Music during customers’ free three month trial. Of course, that criticism gained momentum largely because of megastar Taylor Swift’s public boycotting of the service.

We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple

— Eddy Cue (@cue) June 22, 2015

#AppleMusic will pay artist for streaming, even during customer’s free trial period

— Eddy Cue (@cue) June 22, 2015

It’s also worth pointing out that the rapid response from the company, in addition to Taylor Swift’s subsequent decision to star in ads for Apple, has led many to believe that the entire confrontation was a PR stunt in the first place.

Either way, it worked. When Apple’s VP of software and services, Eddy Cue, tweeted out the company’s vow to reverse that policy, it garnered over 24,000 retweets and countless other tweets, posts, and think pieces about the incredible influence that one icon (and her squad) can wield on an entire industry. In fact, Cue’s tweets contained the phrase “we hear you” ‒ but neither the word “apologize” nor “sorry” ‒ true, inarguable proof that actions speak louder than words.

There’s no single formula that will create the perfect brand apology for every situation. Some, as we’ve seen, may call for a brand to offer no response at all. But those are few and far between. For the most part, brand apologies are a vital way for companies to regain public trust and loyalty after a public mishap. No matter what the infraction or how big the company, it’s always best to focus on those same three principles: sincerity, simplicity, and thoroughness.

Often, how a brand handles a crisis becomes the measure of its social reputation. That’s why you shouldn’t wait until all hell to break loose to get up to speed on the latest media intelligence tools and best practices for handling a crisis in the age of social media. Use our ebook, Media Intelligence for Crisis Communications to learn about setting up alerts, practicing smart media monitoring, and gathering real-time intel before trouble comes.

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 11.45.49 AM.png

 

This article originally appeared in Mainstreethost, was written by Mike Whitney from Business2Community, and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

104 of the Best Free Data Sources For Your Next Infographic

The best way to make a great infographic? Make sure it has great data. It’s the key to telling a good story and—when properly visualized—makes that story more memorable. But where do you get that data? You may have some in-house. You may have come across an interesting study. Or you may need to st