Modern Influencer Strategy: These Ain’t Your Mom’s Influencers

We’ve Moved Beyond Journalism

In my first post, I summarised the shift currently taking place in corporate communications. We’re now ready to delve more deeply into the digital communications landscape, starting with the rise of the influencer. In today’s world, setting a solid influencer strategy means that we need to understand…

  1. Who and where the influencers are
  2. What they do for a living
  3. What they’re interested in
  4. How to measure and understand their influence

Remember the prediction that traditional press as we know it would die? Or the debate as to whether bloggers were “real” journalists?

In the latter part of the past decade, social media emerged. And while it was at first pigeonholed by most of my peers as college students posting messages about drinking, there was a minority in marketing that recognised social media as a growing influence channel. As with any medium, the creator/consumer dynamic stayed true to typical norms. The majority of users were consumers, and the minority were creators. And within the creator community were a growing set of influencers.

Who Are These People, Anyway?

Today, we live in a world where influencers often reach audiences through multiple channels. Walt Mossberg is a great example of a traditional journalist (in his case, at “The Wall Street Journal”), who is amazingly active on blogs (e.g., All Things D, re/code) and is a solid Twitter personality with close to 1M followers.

Walt is an outlier that illustrates an important trend: most influencers either don’t look like they used to, or don’t act like they used to. The most important influencers often aren’t journalists, but rather people who are simply taking advantage of multiple channels to reach a wider audience. Mark Cuban has 2.4M Twitter followers and is likely as or more influential in both sports and business than most journalists covering these two topics. If he says something interesting about a product or brand, his opinion wields influence. Heather Armstrong, 13 years after being fired from her job for insulting her coworkers on her blog (Dooce.com), is a professional mom blogger and social media personality with 1.5M followers – and most those followers include a critical demographic for any brand trying to influence the folks making 80% of household purchasing decisions.

So, this brings us back to the questions that we, in today’s interconnected communications landscape, have to answer in order to craft a well-reasoned influencer strategy:

Q: Where do my influencers influence?
A: They exist on digital media and often in multiple channels. Your “press” list isn’t good enough anymore.

Q: What do my influencers do for a living?
A: They may be journalists, but for your area of focus they may be influencing out of pure interest. They may be moms at home or a software engineers working for big technology companies

Q: What are my influencers interested in?
A: Social networks are fueled by conversation, and that conversation tells us what our influencers like to talk about – and what they like to share.

Q: How do I measure their influence?
A: We used to look at the reach or readership for a newspaper or magazine. Then we added blog page views. Add next, social media followers and page likes. Now we are talking about engagement, the social echo and message amplification, which translates to the propensity of an influencer’s audience to re-post content (e.g., retweet).

A Good Influencer Strategy Leads to Earned Media

What’s exciting to me, as someone who’s spent 20 years in marketing and technology roles, is being on the front lines of the data science that drives sophisticated media intelligence solutions that answer these questions (so that you don’ t have to). Companies like Meltwater (and my team in particular) have been working on influencer scores that span multiple channels and weigh the various components of influence.

When I watch the most successful corporate communications organisations—those that don’t depend on their brand alone to get coverage (e.g., Apple)—I see a strong focus on deliberately influencing specific influencers. They don’t just blast press releases to a long list of journalists. Instead, they target a very small set of key influencers, many of them self-referencing.

In my next post, I’ll talk about the process they use to identify and engage with critical influencers for top effect.

 

Social Media Marketing Statistics Highlight the Importance of Trustworthy Engagement

The role of social media manager is often relegated to junior staff. If you’re considering hiring one, ask yourself if you want to trust such an important piece of your marketing strategy and a full range of consumer touch points to someone with little experience. If social media is an addendum to your workflow tasks, instead of a valuable component of your work day, your brand may miss out on opportunities to engage your audience. How your brand interacts with your community can not be an afterthought.

On top of that, interactions between consumers and brands happen at all times, not only in the 9-5 work day. They can occur 24/7, especially on social media, according to research by Jay Baer: “…among those respondents who have ever attempted to contact a brand, product, or company through social media for customer support, 57% expect the same response time at night and on weekends as during normal business hours.” In that same study, of those consumers that contact brands on social media, 42% expect a response within 60 minutes. With the current expectation that brand accounts are always “on”—your social media accounts must be listening when your audience is ready to share.

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Beyond your branded social media broadcasts, genuine engagement with your audience begins when they share thoughts, photos, insights, and interests with your branded accounts. Every time your audience engages with you, they’re inviting you into their community and offering you, not only access to dialog, but information about their habits, thoughts, and interests. Being attentive to this info is key to knowing what your audience cares about, where they gather online, and how to craft content that is valuable to them. There is the Oprah quote, “People will show you who they are. Believe them.” Actively engaging with your audience on social media will give you a shortcut to what they want (and expect) from you on social.

Data Supports a Robust Social Media Marketing Strategy

Engagement

According to Statista, Facebook is the most popular social network with over 1,590 million active users. Its 18% market share makes it the most used social channel. TrackMaven analyzed brand engagement for the first half of 2016 for 40,000 brands and found that Instagram has some of the most valuable engagement at 10x over Facebook. Engagement is defined as average interactions per post per 1000 followers. Regarding long-term and evergreen engagement, Youtube has the best numbers for high-quality video consumption. Youtube visitors spend an average of four minutes visiting three pages. In this shuffle for engagement (measured as interactions with posts), LinkedIn and Twitter come in at fourth and fifth respectively (surprisingly after Google+, which has fewer, but more-engaged users).

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It may seem surprising to find Twitter is so far down the engagement list for brands, especially since 95% of brands are on Twitter with 65.8% of brands using it for marketing. While brands complain about the lack of Twitter engagement and brand tools, the default openness means people can engage without having a registered account. Because Twitter’s algorithm doesn’t prioritize posts based on follower/friend engagement as aggressively as other channels, brands and media outlets post more (sometimes repeating posts) to ensure a larger segment of the public comes across their messages. This has lead to criticism that Twitter is an unchecked flood, demanding that users wade through more posts.

Trust

According to DMNews, 90% of consumers expect consistent interactions across social channels. In a Mediapost survey, only 20% of consumers said they trust emails from brands or companies; and 18% trust posts by brands or companies on social sites like Facebook and Twitter. Even if they don’t trust emails from brands, 32% of consumers in this survey trust information on company or brand websites; more so than ads in newspapers (only 24% of respondents).

SimplyMeasured found that 95% of brands are on Twitter, and of those, 82% tweet between one and six new posts per day. So, brands are broadcasting online, but consumers don’t entirely trust them, yet. It could be because surveys find that 83% of consumers have previously had a “bad social media marketing experience.” Which means that consumers are hoping brands continue to engage on social channels, but want brands to be trustworthy.

Social media marketing statistics bear out that Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are now more than vehicles for broadcasting information about sales or asking people to purchase from you. More than ever consumers are inviting brands into their communities to exchange information that is relevant to them.

Be a Pro on Social Channels

Brands and consumers are interacting online more than ever, with 55% of customer service interactions beginning online. We’re at the point in utilizing social channels for more than answering and responding to tweets, DMs, PMs, and comments during lunch or after hours. This increased use of social media underscores the need to dedicate resources to create relevant content and authentic engagement.

As you move forward with your social media strategy, and strive to build a full-fledged social marketing program, steer clear of these three common mistakes to avoid negative brand perception.

  1. No or slow engagement. Ignoring direct call-outs on social media is a no-no. At the very least, it’ll reveal your brand as one with shallow engagement. At worse, you’ll gain a reputation for ignoring your community.
  2. Unprofessional engagement. Tasking junior staff with social media engagement can have negative consequences. If your brand style guide doesn’t cover social media etiquette, your brand reputation may be at risk. Brand protection should extend to all communications.
  3. Boring content. Even though you’re a brand with business goals, social posts need to be of value to the consumer. If you continuously post “buy me” messages, it’ll be hard to create a relationship with your audience.

Engage with Experts

As social media marketing matures, getting online and engaging with consumers becomes a marketing imperative. Devoting resources to social media marketing can pay off, as you craft a social media strategy, remember to include listening tools to measure your effectiveness and keep on top of what your community is saying. Authentically engaging with consumers can help build relationships, assist with predicting trends, and extend the reach of your campaigns, it’s time to explore tools that will help you manage and understand your social landscape.

If you’re a social media marketing manager, download our free webinar, Social to Scale: How to Build a Serious Social Media Program.

how to Build a Serious Social Media Program

The Rise of Emoji Marketing: Using Visuals to Boost Brand Engagement

Emoji: we either know someone addicted to them, or we are that someone. I definitely fall in the latter category, but I’m not alone. Over the past 5 years the little yellow men and their army of friends have taken the world by storm. Following this trend, brands have woken up and seen the pixels: several well-known companies are now using the visuals to increase brand engagement.

Brands using emoji marketing

emoji marketingA recent study by telecoms company TalkTalk Mobile found that 8 in 10 of us emoji to communicate. The size, influence and digitally savvy characteristics of the millennial market prove very attractive to brands wanting a piece of this pie. (Mmm pie.)

Speaking of pie, did we mention that it’s now possible to order pizza through the use of an emoji? Thanks Domino’s!

Disney is another company who has benefited from increased brand engagement from the use of emoji. Disney licensed its characters to Facebook as part of their personalisation efforts, as such; we can now send cute little Nemos via the platform. But there is way more to emoji then just adding some extra cuteness into our lives. Now, when the next big film is released, emoji plays a big part of the marketing push and has a clear role in increasing awareness of the film and brand engagement for its makers.

Why use emoji marketing?

Love or loathe Twitter’s character limit, it serves its purpose. But with the use of the photographic emoji, brands now have the option of telling their brand story in a thousand words – and one character count. Emoji increase brand engagement as they engage the audience emotionally, encouraging them to care more about the post than without the visual.

emoji marketingLet’s take a step back and look at the wider picture (excuse the pun). Emoji fits into this cultural shift towards more visual communication and using them can help humanise the brand and increase brand engagement whilst doing so. But what is extra special about emoji is that they do not interrupt our life to increase brand engagement, nor do they try and persuade a change in behaviour. Emoji are something the audience naturally uses (and expects to see), thus when brands create their own images they can be used to organically insert the brand into the conversation and raise brand awareness by doing so.

!Caution! Danger

emoji marketingAlthough we’ve spent the past 400 words singing emoji praises and explaining how they can be used to increase brand engagement, it’s worth mentioning that emoji marketing should be handled with care. As a spokeswoman for Oreo points out, “It’s important to speak the language of our fans.” Whilst 18-24 year olds are emoji advocates, the older demographic are still adapting to this trend. Be sure to test the waters if the audience falls into this category. Use  widely used emoji such as the smiley face or a coffee cup to avoid the message becoming lost, as this can cause a negative knock on effect on brand engagement. Remember that the use of emoji can help to set the tone of our brand’s voice and if that tone is off peak in the eyes of our audience then the use of emoji will do more damage than good.

Now we’ve explained the pros and cons of this quick tactic to increase brand engagement, it’s time to play and see for yourself! Don’t forget to come back to us with the findings; we’d love to hear how it worked out!

PR Outreach: Learning from Chipotle’s Crisis

Introduce the Issue

A crisis isn’t the only high-stakes situation in which your pitch simply has to hit the mark. Are you launching a new product? Did you bring aboard a high-profile executive? If a journalist opens an email with a compelling subject, but the first line reads like an infomercial, how likely is it that she’ll keep reading? Know your audience and educate them on why you chose them for your outreach.

Educate, Don’t Sell

Educate journalists and let them do the selling to the public. Get them excited about what you have to share so they end up spreading the word for you. Got data to support your story? Follow up with the right contacts (read on to learn how analytics can fine-tune your follow up). Be sure to specify if any info is exclusive, and if so, what blackout dates you can offer. Give them some time to write the story and put it out there. A few days is usually fine. And always give them the best contact to reach. Identify the person at your organization who can best handle questions on methodologies, loop that person into the email, and welcome the journalist to reach out directly. Minimize the email tennis.

Know Your Journalist

Make the interaction personal by reading a recent piece of theirs, something related to your own pitch. Did they cover food-borne illness last month and you’re pitching them about new CDC regulations? Great, let them know you’ve read their work and aren’t just going through a rolodex to see who will reply back to you.

Use Keywords for Smarter Pitches

Don’t rely on beats! This is the outdated method of looking up writers; you want to be one step ahead of everyone. Beats are traditionally listed in the bio, but if they’re good at their job and always busy, updating this information is the last thing on their mind. Also, Kelly the journalist could have been assigned a “Finance” beat when she started, but quickly moved on, and the only coverage she’s written under this beat could be over a year old. If you know the journalist or the exact topic, use a keyword search.

Say you want to pitch to someone who referenced Chipotle last month in her article. Run a keyword search for “Chipotle” to discover which journalists are mentioning the brand. Set the date range to look within the past 30 days. See the journalists in the content stream below?

Use keyword searching in the Meltwater Influencers tool to find journalists who have referenced Chipotle.These three journalists have referenced Chipotle in the last 30 days.

Those are your new best friends. Click on Relevant Articles to see their works that reference your keyword. Start researching their work and build those relationships with your first email.

Know Your Subject Matter Experts

Annual events might be assigned to the same writer every year. So if you search for “annual restaurant trade show” and see the same group of writers, there’s a high chance they’ll cover the event again. These writers might be more in tune to the restaurant space than someone who wrote one relevant article in the past six months.

Hot Story Seeks Journo

Maybe you have a preference for a publication but don’t know the best person to reach. That’s what an editor’s job is: assigning a topic or story to the journalist. Load up your media database and pitch to the editor of the publication.

Meltwater Influencers database can sort contacts by roles, so you can pitch to editors in your media outreach effort.Influencers lets you search for editors—they’re the ones who assign stories!

And if you’re lucky enough to find the right journalist covering your subject, check her Twitter bio or a recent article for her preferred mode of contact. See how one woman reached out to Arianna Huffington and the lessons she learned in getting noticed.

Mail Servers: The Gatekeepers

Mail servers have gotten over-zealous in detecting spam. If your message looks like spam, it might not reach your journalist. Even using a free email provider, like Gmail, is more likely to flag the spam filter than a verified domain (read more under “Campaign Metadata” in MailChimp’s excellent article). And we all remember what spam emails look like: catchy subject lines and file attachments from unknown senders. You’re starting off as an unknown sender, so avoid looking like a spammer. Put your story in the message body. Don’t send it as a PDF attachment. And either offer to send supplementary information or, better yet, provide a link to it.

Pitch by Media Type

Are you pitching to TV or radio? You’ll want to look for assignment editors, producers, or news directors. What if you’re pitching to print media? Focus on and assignment editors, managing editors, editors-in-chiefs, and bureau chiefs. Your choice will also depend on the outlet’s size. For example, you might want to look for bureau chiefs for the Washington Post.

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Improve Your Follow Up with Analytics

If you do send an email to multiple contacts, you can use an email analytics tool like the one recently introduced to our Influencers media database. This will show you who is reading your mail and who hasn’t yet opened it. Learn to troubleshoot your pitches with open-rate stats, and you won’t get discouraged the next time you see a chart like this:

Sharpen your media outreach follow up with analytics; know your bounce and open rates.Send mail from within Influencers, and we can tell you who is reading your messages and how long they were engaged.

Use the new Meltwater Influencers feature to follow up according to your outreach analytics.

Scenario: Outbreak Crisis

You head Chipotle’s PR team. A new outbreak was documented on the West Coast. You need to get in front of the issue before media speculation becomes a toxic stew that freaks out first the investors and then the day traders. Armed with the details of this outbreak—as much as you can publicly disclose—you fire up your media contacts database to look up journalists by a keyword search for your brand. You notice that “Chipotle” brought up three journalists who referenced your brand in the last 30 days.

Use keyword searching in the Meltwater Influencers tool to find journalists who have referenced Chipotle.Identify your journalists using a keyword search. Keywords beat beats.

 

Segment your contacts with custom mailing lists in Influencers.Segment your media contacts with custom mailing lists.

Note: if you’ve curated your own list of media contacts, import them into the Influencers database and our team of media researchers will keep their contact information updated.

Import your curated contacts and we'll keep their contact information updated.Import your curated contacts and we’ll keep their contact information updated.

You compose a new message from within the Meltwater Influencers database—to take advantage of our engagement analytics—and start typing the name of the mailing list in the Recipients line.

Compose messages from Influencers to take advantage of advanced read statistics.Compose messages from Influencers to take advantage of advanced read statistics.

Type the name of your mailing list and we'll populate the field for you.Type the name of your mailing list and we’ll populate the field for you.

Note: we offer a Send Preview so you know what the message looks like on the receiver’s end. Use your own email as the test recipient.

You remember not to add attachments, because you don’t want your message to get rejected by the writers’ spam filters.
Later that day and for the next couple, you look at your analytics report to see who opened your message. You follow up accordingly and start to build a relationship with the most receptive contacts. And finally, you remember that, throughout a major brand crisis, cultivating and maintaining media relationships is key to turning around brand perception. To see how long it took for Chipotle’s brand perception to bounce back from its outbreak crisis, check out the Chipotle Crisis section of our fast food industry report.

tl;dr

  • Send targeted, personal pitches, avoid a “firehose approach.”
  • Use keyword searching to find your journalists. Pay attention to the time frame to make sure you’re seeing the freshest content. Remember that some journalists cover a recurring event like industry trade shows.
  • Read one of their latest pieces on the topic you searched for. Familiarize yourself with their writing.
  • If you don’t know the best journalist to cover your story, use our handy media pitch guide:
    • TV/Radio: assignment Editor, producers, news directors
    • Print: managing editor, editors in chief, bureau chiefs, assignment editors.
    • This could depend on outlet size, e.g. look for bureau chiefs for the Washington Post.
  • Avoid flagging spam filters.
    • Don’t send attachments. Instead, copy and paste your story into the message body. A PDF might flag a spam filter.
    • If possible, use an email address with a private domain, not one from a free email service provider (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.).
  • Use message analytics to follow up accordingly.

Be sure to check out our latest webinar: Don’t Let Your Brand Be Crisis. We show you how to spot trends and steer the conversation with PR and social media strategies for crafting an effective response.

Get the Edge in EdgeRank: 5 Facebook Marketing Tips

What’s Facebook Edgerank?

Put simply, Edgerank is the algorithm that Facebook applies to our content to determine what’s going to show up for users in their Newsfeed. Facebook continually tweaks this algorithm for one purpose, and that’s to spur quality engagement from its community.

Over the past few years, Facebook has made a lot of changes to both its policies (e.g. banning fan-gating) and to Edgerank that have made it harder for brands to get in front of the folks that matter to them. With that in mind, here are 5 tips to keeping your edge:

facebook marketing tips

1) Avoid Click-baiting Titles

Click-baiting is when a post provides a link to click without any real context as to why that person should be clicking on the link. You might notice that Facebook article shares provide a blurb that lets the reader know what they’re about to read, and for good reason: Facebook has noted that both text and context are a better user experience (read: more successful at encouraging engagement).

2) Go for Comments and Shares

That thumbs-up just isn’t what it used to be: virality is going down for post likes. Facebook will give more weight to weightier engagement, and in Facebook real estate that means comments and shares. But how? Read on…

3) Share, Don’t Sell

The overall trend with Facebook’s algorithm and policy changes are to penalise brands for being too overtly promotional in their posts. Facebook users aren’t generally amenable to seeing “buy this” CTA’s in their newsfeed – and Facebook itself doesn’t have anything to gain from brands making sales from free real estate. With that in mind, sticking to a good content marketing strategy of being entertaining, useful or otherwise engaging is the way to go here.

It’s important to note that you don’t just have to post your own original content. Sharing content from your target influencers, for example, is a great way to engage them and engage your community in one post.

4) Go Multimedia

People like to watch videos; this, like cats and bacon, is a consistent internet theme and probably not going to change anytime soon. Remember, you don’t have to just share your own videos; Facebook is chock full of videos being shared, so finding the ones that are already trending and sharing them with your community is a great way to leverage multimedia content without the heavy lifting of creating it.

TIP: if you’re posting your own video, consider putting subtitles on the screen. Facebook auto-play means that some folks will turn their volume down in the workplace, so you may need to hook them with a catchy title and the subtitles.

5) Use Trending Topics Wisely

Edgerank takes note of both what trending topics are, and when they’re trending. This means that content written about those topics in a timely manner will be prioritised – as long as the posts are actually adding value to the conversation (read: not committing any Facebook content sins). Some folks might call this “headline jacking,” but I’m not a huge fan of that concept: it’s much more me-focused than community-focused. If you have something interesting to say about the topic, and your post is adding a unique perspective to the conversation, go for it. If you’re posting for the sake of hitching your wagon to a shooting star, forget it: it’ll annoy your community and be severely penalised in reach.

Below is a screenshot that shows you how to find those trending topics when you’re logged in as yourself.

facebook marketing tips

At the end of the day, a good Facebook marketing strategy is one that just has people acting like real people. When in doubt, thinking about how we share on our personal feeds is a great way to keep ourselves honest.

Any other Facebook marketing tips? Feel free to share in the comment field.

 

Make Your Presence Felt: The PR and Content Marketing Guide to Productive Events

So, professional conference season is upon us! Once you’ve decided to go to a conference and have your travel set, what do you do to get yourself ready?

Meltwater is heading to a few conferences in the next few months, including CMWorld and PRSA. (If you’re going to either, hit us up on Twitter!)

A PR and marketing team has unique objectives at each conference, but as I prep for my first CMWorld, I realize that there’s more strategy involved than I anticipated. These days, going to a conference is not a passive experience. Along with lots of learning, my conference goals include producing content, and having a thought-through process will be essential for fitting everything in.

Research sessions and workshops

If you aren’t signing up for a full pass, you might want to look into other options. This can mean general press or industry access or an exhibition hall pass. Getting the correct access is the beginning of your event journey, so make sure that you have the right credentials.

If you’ve registered as a full attendee, roll up your sleeves and enroll in workshops or breakout sessions before you get there. Wait, you might say, “How do I decide which ones to go to?” Hopefully, the blurbs on the site give you enough information to make decisions. If you want to guarantee an engaging speaker, google videos of them, or plug in a relevant search into your media intelligence platform and check out videos and authored articles/posts.

Get your social accounts conference ready

If you don’t use your social platforms for work, either clean them up or start new accounts especially for professional venues, such as conferences and to give to future colleagues. Stymied as to where to start? LinkedIn for professional networking, and Twitter and Instagram for monitoring the event and connecting with fellow attendees in real time.

Depending on the conference, it may be possible to see an attendee list with accompanying social handles before you arrive. Also, if organizers provide event-specific Twitter and Instagram handles—you’re ahead of the game! Grab all of these and put them into Twitter lists. If you’re super organized, separating out speakers and attendees can be useful later when you’re on site and covering the conference. Since Instagram doesn’t provide the ability to make lists, just follow those handles.

If no attendee names or social handles are provided via the conference website, uncover attendees by looking at who is using the event hashtag and google speakers’ names. In the case of Content Marketing World, for example, I searched for the branded hashtag #cmworld, in addition to “Content Marketing World*”, “cmicontent”, Cleveland, and 2016, since I was only interested in this year’s attendees. Plugging a boolean search into a media intelligence platform has the advantage of keeping searches running, gathering results throughout your planning process, as well as gives you the ability to spot possible trends ancillary to the event.

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After you reach a certain tipping point, say 100 attendee handles on your Twitter list, a nice pre-conference engagement tweet might be to ask, “Who else is going to #CMWorld? Putting together a list of attendees and don’t want to miss anyone!” This will serve you three-fold, first it will broadcast your attendance to other Twitter list makers, and second, it may then lead to introductions. And third, as this callout might net you a few responses, it is possible that your Twitter list is the most comprehensive (and therefore will be utilized on the ground, during the conference).

Producing conference coverage

At this point, you may have an idea of how you’d like to cover the conference. During the course of an event, especially one that is a week long, it is difficult to do anything other than focus on what’s happening in the present. You’ll be busy networking, attending sessions, taking notes, watching exhibitor demos, going to happy hours, and dinners. So, having an idea of what your coverage will look like and prepping for it before arrival is the best way to create and produce content while you’re there. Block out time in your schedule to get your project together, so that it receives maximum impact. Producing and getting content out (whether this is a blog post or infographic) before (or soon after) the conference is over will allow you to leverage the hashtag in social channel promotions, help cement new relationships you’ve forged at the event, and position you as an essential part of the community that the conference caters to (a first step towards industry thought leadership).

Here are some ideas for coverage:

  • Photo project highlighting speakers or attendees that reflect your audience’s demographic
  • Live tweet with attribution (Twitter lists comes in handy here)
  • General social coverage of the event on Twitter and Instagram with hashtags (helps cement new relationships)
  • Infographic or blog post round-up that includes lessons learned and favorite quotes

After Hours

A big part of conferences are the networking opportunities. As un-conference YxYY puts it, “At your average conference, we know the best conversations happen in the hallways. They happen over late night drinks, and on the walk from point A to point B.”

If you’re new to this particular conference and even new to the profession, how can you guarantee opportunities to have these conversations? Again, social listening is your friend. As you research the conference branded hashtags, include “happy hour”, “attendee dinner”, “VIP dinner”, “drinks”, and “after hours” to get a sense of what’s happening and who’s going. If invitations are open, RSVP to as many events as you’ll realistically attend. You might also surface posts from fellow attendees suggesting IRL engagement. If you’re feeling bold, answer the call of: “Does anyone at the conference hall want to grab dinner?” or throw out your own social invite. Either way, conferences are a way to get out there and meet like-minded colleagues discussing your industry. Using media intelligence and social channel searching you can enrich your conference experience and make it productive.

We’ve covered sessions, prepping personal social media accounts, tracking conference attendees’ social accounts, listening to hashtags at the conference in real time, and contributing with your own take on the conference, and now the after hours events.

Using this as a guide, planning coverage and listening to socials throughout your conference experience (before, during, and after) will guarantee a productive experience! You’ve got everyone’s Twitter handles, now get out there and network!

5 Content Marketing Dimensions for the Customer Journey

Companies are spending an inordinate amount of time crafting and promoting content for prospects and customers. As content marketers, we often underestimate the cost of the content we’re producing and undervalue the cost of content that we syndicate. Content Marketing expert Jay Baer released some startling analysis on this topic in his post, Why Blog Posts Fail.

In his analysis, the average blog post costs approximately $900 for a company to develop, yet 80-90% of all blog traffic comes from 10-20% of posts. Why then would companies invest in a strategy where they value posts at $15 to $100 per post? It’s mind-boggling. Developing a comprehensive content marketing strategy should involve more than pulling a keyword report and working to spew a couple shallow blog posts every day that look and sound the same.

The truth is 60%-70% of B2B content created goes unread. How do you ensure that the content you’re creating makes it past the noise?

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We’ve identified five dimensions that you should be evaluating every single piece of content that you produce:

  1. Reader Cognition: Your audience is diverse in how they digest content. Diversity in your content—including visual, audible, and kinesthetic interaction is needed to reach all readers.
  2. Sharing Motivation: Sharing is critical in a social world to extend your reach to a wider, relevant audience. There are specific reasons why readers share content. Readers share content to increase their value to others, create an identity online, involve themselves in their community, extend their network, and bring awareness to causes.
  3. Persuasion: Robert Cialdini’s research has identified six principles of persuasion—liking, reciprocity, consensus, scarcity, consistency, and authority. How are you persuading your readers to move from one moment to the next in their customer journey?
  4. Decision-Making: Every individual is impacted differently from a variety of supporting criteria when making a decision. Trust, facts, emotion and efficiency all play a role, with combinations therein. Having balanced content with respect to supporting criteria is a best practice on every piece of content produced.
  5. Factors: As we write content, we often don’t think about other factors influencing a person outside the content we’re discussing. Every decision we make isn’t just evaluated personally but also impacted by our friends, family, and company.

Storytelling is the new rage in content marketing nowadays. It’s not simply the ability to write an effective story that matters, though. It’s the story’s hyper-relevance and emotional connection with the reader that’s driving visitors, sharing, and conversions. As you evaluate your content, remember that if you are unable to form a connection with the reader, you won’t be able to make an impact.

This excerpt, Five Dimension of Content Marketing, is from our free ebook, How to Map Your Content to Unpredictable Customer Journeys, download to gain deeper insights into creating content that meets your customer at every point along the journey.

Crisis Management: Look for Early Warning Signs

Modern media intelligence tools allow us to measure our performance based on exposure, reach, quality of coverage, and quality of influencers, among other key benchmarks. These metrics are still relatively new, and we love them because they enable us to quantify our effectiveness and justify the value of our programs.

The same types of searches that help us keep track of brand mentions can also help us spot trouble when it’s heading our way. Given how fast news travels on social media, the speed with which we respond is critical in influencing the message and minimising damage to our brand.

Crisis Management Starts Before the Crisis Hits

A sophisticated alert system can help mitigate the impact of a crisis. A good place to start is with a list of messages that have triggered negative feedback in the past. At any point, this same resistance might come back, get amplified, and take on a life of its own. You’ll also want to talk with your sales reps, customer support, and legal counsel on issues that they’ve encountered. Once you’ve made a list of potential crisis triggers, create news and social searches for them.

To help you get started, here are some examples:

  • Executives: Journalists, analysts, and sometimes customers pay attention to what high-ranking executives say and do. And so should you. Keep on top of their Twitter and Facebook feeds, what videos and blogs they post, and how everything they are putting out into the world is received and amplified.
  • Competitors: Pay as much attention to competitor brand mentions as you do your own. Their crisis could easily become yours. And if a competitor decides to come after you, you’ll want to know about it first and respond before others have a chance to amplify their message.
  • Industry news: Sometimes a crisis will hit you by association. By keeping track of how your industry is perceived and any events that might impact it (such as natural disasters or newly introduced legislation) you are prepared to address these issues as an industry leader.
  • Geography: Keep tabs on news and trends regarding places you operate. When a global crisis takes place, global companies will sometimes stop all activity on their social channels as a show of respect and solidarity (even when this crisis has nothing to do with them, such as a devastating earthquake that draws global support and headlines). If you’re a smaller brand you may want to do the same for crises that affect where you live and operate.
  • Events: Keep track of trending topics related to an event your are participating in to help prevent speakers and reps from getting caught with their guards down.
  • Controversy: Keep current on any number of business and political keywords that are associated with your company’s operations. You’ll know when hot-button topics are trending and get ready to explain your position on them before you are equated with the fallout they’ve generated.
  • Complaints: Make a list of customer complaints and keep an eye out for them in your search results. Once an influencer amplifies customer concerns, they can be cemented as “expert opinion,” and your credibility can suffer longstanding damage.

Be Strategic, Not Just Tactical

Now that we know what’s coming, we need to have crisis-specific contingency plans in place that define next steps and keep us organised when all hell breaks loose. Create a workflow. Establish an internal notification system. Draft key messages and get them approved. And identify the channels you’ll use to get them out.

Remember, just because we have a social media manager who can push messages out in 140 characters or less several times a day, doesn’t mean that we’re ready for a full blown crisis on social media. In fact, preparing for a crisis requires getting out of the mindset that keeps us busy all day executing and measuring our tactical goals. While old-fashioned contingency planning lacks the immediate sense of accomplishment we get when we see share numbers rising on our latest post, it will prevent those share numbers from rising for all the wrong reasons.

As for measuring our effectiveness and proving our value, it’s a good idea to add crisis management contingency planning to our list of measurable quarterly goals—and pace ourselves. Map out two or three crisis protocols per quarter—starting with early warning signs—and make sure that accomplishing this goal is part of your performance review.

Trending Hashtags: How to Reverse Negative Sentiment for Your Brand or Influencer

On social networks such as Twitter and Instagram, the use of hashtags has increased explosively since 2012. Hashtags are used to follow conversations for trending topics, and in some cases can propel posts to become trending topics themselves.

Nowhere are trending topics more time sensitive than during events. For example, if you attend Outside Lands, an annual music festival in San Francisco, you might be interested in tracking conversations around the festival as they’re occurring. With a little research, you’ll notice that the official hashtag #outsidelands is predominantly picked up by brands associated with the event while an organic hashtag #osl2016 is what festival attendees use. Posts tagged with #osl2016 are hyper-relevant and current and brings you into the social conversations literally happening all around you—photos, insights, opinions—that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.

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Lost in the crowd (at Outside Lands)? Let an event hashtag guide the way.

Now, let’s say you’re with the PR agency helping to promote the event. Beyond your interest in the number of attendees using these hyper-relevant hashtags to discuss the festival, you can get a bird’s eye view of how this socially vocal and connected group feels about what’s going on around them. Sentiment is an assessment of these feelings based on the positive, negative, and neutral words being used in posts. This scoring system, based on an algorithm that uses natural language processing, acts as a barometer of general trends.

As studies have shown, language has a tendency to skew positive, and that includes brand mentions on social. Neutral sentiment can be thought of as the movable middle, which means that a spike in negative sentiment will pull neutral sentiment in its direction without affecting the amount of positive sentiment. But what do you do to reverse course?

What do hashtags have to do with sentiment?

One of the most effective ways to counteract negative sentiment is associating a positive hashtag to the topic at hand. Things will start to turn around if you can get the hashtag trending. We saw this in practice with two very visible women. First, Leslie Jones and then, applying what she learned from this experience, her impact on Gabby Douglas.

Leslie Jones

Famous people’s @mentions are likely to have a certain amount of negative mentions because increased eyeballs on you and your work means increased scrutiny. Ever since the announcement of the all-female Ghostbusters, Leslie Jones (@lesdoggg) has been on the receiving end of aggressive backlash. Though she stars, alongside Kristin Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Megan McCarthy, and Chris Hemsworth; Leslie Jones was singled out in a way that the others were not. As the date of the film’s release approached, as well as its accompanying marketing push, her visibility on entertainment and associated social media increased. Where the other cast members were criticized for starring in the film, Leslie’s social media mentions received a side of racism with the criticism. Trolling reached a crescendo on July 18. That’s when Milo Yiannopoulos credited her with offensive and faux posts on Twitter. The thinking was that she “deserved” a negative backlash because she, herself was racist, homophobic, etc…

On July 18, @MarissaRei1, an active member of black Twitter proposed the hashtag, #LoveforLeslieJ, and it began trending. Picked up by various celebrities and friends of the star, it turned the conversation around. Central to this strategy was the inclusion of the word “love” in the hashtag, making it unmistakably clear that the hashtag is a show of support and throwing sentiment firmly into the positive. It helped that this support for Leslie also led to Milo Yiannopoulos being “banned for life” on the platform. Public bans are a recent move by Twitter, whose track record of dealing with platform harassment had been previously criticized.

Looking at Leslie Jones’s sentiment from January 1 to the present (below), we see that it skews positive with a slight increase in negative sentiment in March, when marketing for Ghostbusters began. In July, when the bullying and trolling kicked in, negative sentiment spiked and positive dipped. Then #LoveforLeslieJ took hold, and the trend began to reverse. As her enthusiasm for the Olympics—and related appearances on NBC—increased her visibility, we see the score now safely turned back to positive.

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It’s been up and down for Leslie Jones. #LoveforLeslieJ seems to have finally turned things around.

Gabby Douglas

As we see below, going into the Olympics, Gabby Douglas, having won team gymnastics and all-around gold for 2012, was trending positive. On August 7, her negative sentiment spiked (and positive dipped) after she failed to qualify for competition in the all-around final. On August 9, sentiment climbed back up after her performance on the uneven bars helped Team USA win gold for Women’s Gymnastics. While on the podium, a complaint that she didn’t place her hand on her heart during the US anthem resulted in a new burst of negative sentiment, leading to more sentiment seesaws as defenders and detractors debated her attitude.

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Sentiment for Gabby Douglas flip-flops throughout the first week of the Olympics.

On August 15, Leslie Jones threw some of her influencer status behind a hashtag for Gabby Douglas, paying it forward with #Love4GabbyUSA. Supporters amplified this hashtag throughout social media. Shonda Rimes throwing an overwhelmingly positive tweet into the Twitterverse didn’t hurt. It took a day, but by August 16, Gabby’s positive sentiment climbed from 36% to 52% and on to 60% by the 19th, the effective end of gymnastics competition. It hovered around this range through the weekend, but as the announcement that she’ll be a judge at the 2017 Miss America pageant went out on Monday morning, August 22, social media sentiment began to trend negative again. Looking at some of the negative tweets, they seem to be the work of bots. Algorithms favor original, non-duplicated content so, authentic positive mentions and positive hashtags should eventually overtake them. (Also, the trolls will eventually move along to another target, as they do.) Social media has a self-perpetuating effect of spurring similar conversations as soon as they start, so start positive and more positive will follow. This “me too!” aspect helps keep trends going.Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 10.11.59 AM.png

#Love4GabbyUSA did its job until the bots came after her.

As we can see from Gabby Douglas’s year-to-date sentiment below, it is mostly positive. The recent August sentiment skews negative, but in the scheme of the year, this should be but a bump in the road. But a little intervention (thank you, Leslie Jones) never hurts.

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So, the question remains, does it make sense to launch a #hashtag campaign to change the conversation to support your brand?

Launching a hashtag in support of your brand should be a key part of your publicity playbook. The viral nature of positive and negative sentiment can alter the opinion of a brand, public figure, or important topic. If you’re able to get a hashtag going and even get influencers in the mix to get it trending, taking this route can shift a conversation from negative to positive and change the tide.

To see your brand’s sentiment in action, ask for a Meltwater demo.

How to Turn Your Employees into LinkedIn Content Superstars

A B2B client approached us last week with a problem we’ve heard over and over again: “My marketing team has created a ton of great content. I know it would make a huge impact on LinkedIn, if only I could get my employees to share it.”

So many organizations are putting time and effort into creating content that will engage their customers (if you’re not, call us and maybe we can help!). And it’s not just the standard marketing fluff. It’s real, helpful information based on the pain points they know their customers are struggling with. But, like the proverbial tree falling in the woods, if no one reads it, does it make a difference?

Nope, unfortunately, it doesn’t.

The problem is that as a marketer, you simply can’t reach everyone despite your best efforts through owned, paid, and earned media. Increasingly, it’s essential to tap into your employees’ network, especially through channels like LinkedIn, to get a viral lift and more eyeballs on your work.

It’s harder to do than you think. It would be nice if you could just tell your staff, “hey, share this” and the flood gates of engagement swing wide. What you’re really doing, though, is saying, “hey, here’s another task for you to complete. Take time out of your busy day to fool around on social networks. And, no, we’re not paying you more.”

It’s not going to work. You have to completely change the way you pitch LinkedIn in order to change their mindset and turn them into LinkedIn content superstars.

When we consult with clients about their LinkedIn distribution strategy, we advise content owners and creators to think of their employees as end customers. You have to sell them the benefit of sharing content on LinkedIn and clearly answer the question “What’s In It for Me?”

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In order to build an effective strategy on LinkedIn, talk to employees about your content distribution program in terms of Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle. If you’re not familiar, the Golden Circle is the way effective leaders communicate and it’s pretty much the exact opposite of the way everyone else does – first why, then how, and finally what.

Start with WHY

This is where you communicate vision and passion. It’s the time to inspire your audience – in this case, the employees you want to buy in to your LinkedIn distribution strategy. When talking about the why with them, these tips will help:

  1. Align it with the brand: Your LinkedIn content distribution plan should feel like a natural extension of your company’s goals. The more aligned, the more employees will understand why they’re doing it. Let your passion come through. As Sinek said, “People don’t buy what you’re doing, they buy why you’re doing it.” Are you excited about the plan? Make them feel it.
  1. Don’t put it in an email: emails are so easy to delete, forget about, or come back to later (which never happens). Make it fun. Spending a couple of bucks on a pizza lunch to introduce your strategy ensures that you’ll have their attention.
  1. Ask for feedback: Give employees some ownership. Ask what they think about it, provide chances for them to give their feedba