11 Social Media Trends to Watch out for in 2018

Can you believe 2017 is almost over and 2018 will be here before we know it? While the years may come and go, one thing is always changing: social media trends. You may have just become used to creating memes and adding videos to your social media channels, but it’s time to learn a whole new set of rules.

What were the hottest social media trends of 2017?

  • Live Streaming Video
  • Chatbots
  • Expiring Social Content
  • Merging of Social Media Platforms
  • Harder Acquisition of Organic Social Traffic
  • Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
  • Increased Personalized Content
  • Increased Usage of Social Influencers

What’s on the horizon for 2018? Keep reading for trends to follow and become familiar with as you begin planning your strategy for the New Year.

Social Media Trends for 2018

Staying on top of social media trends is important for increasing user engagement, getting your content out there and it’s important for your business. Here’s what you need to keep your eye out for and learn next year.

1. Increase Relevant Content

Irrelevant social media content is a waste of everyone’s time. It can be disappointing to customers when they want to read your latest news and the update they see has nothing to do with your brand. In fact, nearly three out of four users get frustrated when content isn’t relevant to their interests.

Targeted personalization for audiences is a major trend in content marketing, and it extends to social media as well. As social media platforms change, their analytics tools and business-specific features will become more detailed and valuable to brands.

This kind of data means marketers will have the insights to craft better and more personalized content for their audiences. It’s past time for marketers to be creating and distributing content that truly speaks to and engages audiences on a personal level; social media will help make that easier.

2. Overlapping Social Media Channels

Currently, Snapchat and Instagram feature timed videos and visual content. Instagram Stories have a significantly wider reach and receive more engagement; Instagram influencers see up to 10 percent of their audience members open their Instagram Stories on a daily basis, which is more than can be said for Snapchat. However, Snapchat continues to dominate among members of younger demographics. As more platforms offer similar features, brands and marketers will have to be increasingly selective about which ones they invest in. Take advantage of analytics and reporting features to identify which platforms could offer you the best return, and start there.

3. Engage in Social Listening

Instead of just watching what kind of content your competitors are creating or what they’re posting on social media, you should also pay attention to their mentions and what people are saying, and use it as a metric to compare your performance.

“Using web monitoring, we can collect an enormous amount of data on our company and our competitors that can be used in our marketing strategy. Our research showed that in one month, 14,000 online searches started with ‘Can anyone recommend?’ and about 30,000 searches started with ‘Where can I buy?’ About 60 percent of these questions never received responses from companies; this is a huge opportunity,” says Magdalena Urbaniak, global communications manager at Brand24.

Urbaniak says monitoring these social mentions can show you what people in your shared audience like and don’t like, which can provide insight into where your brand can grow.

Social listening gives you valuable information about your competitors and your own audience that you can use to your advantage in your content strategy.

4. Video Will Continue to Grow

Everyone by now knows that video content is popular and, therefore, important for social media marketing. And as social algorithms keep evolving, video will only grow more valuable for generating engagement and building your following.

Instagram’s Stories feature and Snapchat itself also give brands the chance to create video content and share it immediately with their followers. Having the ability to create that kind of content and the strategy to tie it to your written content for your blog and outside publications will be critical for brands in 2018.

More than 200 million people use Instagram Stories each month, which is 50 million more than those who use Snapchat. Amazingly, the Instagram Stories feature is just one year old! At this rate, nearly half of all Instagram users will be using Stories by the end of 2018.

5. Facebook is Going Mobile

By 2020, it’s predicted that 59 percent of U.S. users will access Facebook through mobile exclusively, and 80 percent of the company’s ad revenue already comes from mobile ads.

Facebook was one of the last social media platforms that wasn’t originally designed to be on mobile devices. Looking at other apps like Instagram and Snapchat, we’ve seen the trend of mobile-only (or mostly mobile) social apps for a long time now. Mobile optimization has been an industry practice for savvy marketers for a while, but with Facebook not far from being dominated by mobile use, brands will have no excuse for creating or distributing content that’s not optimized for mobile.

If you need help creating mobile-friendly content, check out my other blog post on just that topic.

6. Chatbots Are Continuing to Surge

Instant connection and widespread internet access have conditioned us to want things yesterday or, when that’s not possible, in the next five minutes. Unfortunately, this prompts a lot of businesses to do one of two things: respond so quickly that mistakes are made and service quality suffers, or freeze in their tracks because they’re not quite sure how to meet this demand for speed.

That’s part of what makes chatbots, especially through Facebook Messenger valuable. Chatbots give companies the chance to interact quickly with your audience in a way that feels personal; you can customize your brand voice and send personalized content directly to users. This could be why there are at least 100,000 monthly active bots on Facebook Messenger and the reason two billion messages are exchanged between brands and their audiences each month. If you aren’t already, 2018 might be the year to test chatbots for your business.

7. Investment in Influencer Marketing

Over 90 percent of marketers who employ an influencer marketing strategy believe it is successful. Companies like North Face, Hubspot and Rolex use social media–based influencer marketing strategies to connect with new audiences and improve engagement with existing audiences.

This year we saw that brands that opted for traditional advertising strategies struggled to connect to social media users. Next year, it is likely that more brands will embrace influencer marketing to connect with audiences who tend to ignore traditional strategies.

8. Focus on Generation Z

A recent study conducted by Goldman Sachs concluded that Generation Z was more valuable to most organizations than millennials. Today, the oldest Generation Zers are 22 years old. They are just beginning to enter the labor force and will have increased buying power for some time.

Brands should begin to recognize this and shift their social media strategies accordingly. Expect great investment in platforms loved by Gen Zers like Snapchat and Instagram.

9. Rethinking Twitter

Twitter has failed to grow followers significantly in 2017. In fact, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram all have more social media followers. This year, Twitter also lost access to streaming NFL games (Amazon won the rights). In 2018, it is likely that Twitter leadership will rethink how the platform operates.

Possible changes to Twitter include selling the company to private investors, changing the platform to include some subscription element and/or revamping Twitter advertising options, which have fallen behind other platforms. It might be better to invest more time and money in increasingly popular sites like Facebook and Instagram next year.

10. Social Media for Publishing

Social Media platforms are increasingly exploring options for users to move beyond simply sharing content by allowing them to publish their own content. Over the last year, LinkedIn has been growing in popularity as a publishing outlet, with many companies using the platform to boost their B2B marketing from influential articles.

Snapchat and Instagram are also evolving to allow linking features that allow users to swipe to read articles. Additionally, Facebook’s Instant Articles is becoming increasingly popular with many content creators using the feature to publish their pieces directly to the Facebook App.

Content marketing is no longer just about creating great content for your website. It’s now become about getting your content in front of consumers where they already are, and using social media as a publishing outlet is an effective way to do so.

11. Purpose Driven Marketing

Social media marketing is turning more into connecting with your audiences’ emotions than it is just about unveiling a new product or sharing news. Brands can use purpose-driven marketing to target an audience based on their shared needs and interests – particularly in supporting a worthy cause.

Customers are loyal to brands that have a purpose, with 91% of millennials saying they would switch brands to one associated with a cause. Partnering with nonprofits and charities, or establishing a “give back” program, can give a brand a stronger presence by aligning their purpose with the values and priorities of their consumers.

Heading into 2018

Did any of these social media trends for 2018 surprise you? Are you ready to try and implement some of these trends into your social media marketing? To make sure the foundation to all your social media programs is equipped, download our ebook, Social to Scale: How to Build a Serious Social Media Program.

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This article originally appeared in Three Girls Media, it was written by Natalie Petersen from Business2Community, and is legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

How to Make Your Top Executives Your Biggest PR Assets

The best executives become synonymous with their brands, and earn the status of respected industry thought leaders. Think Sheryl Sandberg, Richard Branson, Reed Hastings, and Elon Musk. These thought leaders spread their—and their company’s—point of view in countless interviews and speaking engagements across the globe. It’s every PR pro’s dream to have a bona fide influencer in-house and spend their time deflecting press requests, instead of pitching endlessly for them.

How to Identify an Executive Thought Leadership Platform

While some executives may come into your organization with their own built-in following and a knack for courting the press, that’s more the exception than the rule. For most of us, we need to put together a PR strategy to build their thought leadership profile, and help them become an attractive source for the media. While we don’t have enough room here to do a deep dive into the topic, there are a few key activities you’ll want to focus on.

As the first step, you need to evaluate the topics your executive is most interested in and experienced with talking about, and how they fight in with your current PR strategy. While it can be tempting to take all the opportunities you can get, contributed content and media coverage doesn’t link back to your organization’s purpose and business goals is fluff.

Once you’ve identified the target topics, flesh out talking points with messaging that relates to your value proposition without being self-promotional. Go over the messaging points with the executive, then schedule a 1:1 media training session for them where they’ll get grilled on those talking points. With the feedback from that session in mind, work with them to refine their delivery of the messages until they become comfortable with the subject matter, and no longer feel scripted.

Tactics for Building Thought Leadership

After you’ve determined the right topical fit for them, you’re ready to dive into the following influence-building tactics:

  • Build out their social presence. Coach them on being present on social as a way to build their profile. Don’t take on too many social media platforms though—identify the ones that are most important for your industry and your customers and focus there. Help them identify your industry’s top influencers and analysts and follow them and start engaging over time.
  • Sign them up for (some) notifications. When they finally get a comment from a journalist they’ve been building a relationship, you don’t want them to miss it. Setup mention alerts to keep them in the loop without overwhelming them.
  • Get them blogging. This can mean sharing their thoughts on your company blog, blogging on LinkedIn, or managing a Medium account. Consider a mix of content that’s exclusive to the channel and repurposing contributed content for a new audience.
  • Apply for speaking engagements. Look at local industry conferences first, and customer events put on by your key partners. Start building out presentations on your key topics, and pitch to larger conferences as the executive gains experience and comfort with presenting them.

These small steps will help your executives start building their public profile as a subject matter expert.

Some Executives Aren’t Ready for Primetime

Despite the communications team’s best efforts, not all executives are cut out to be thought leaders. Despite the careful crafting of talking points and hands-on media training, things like this happen:

  • One executive asked the marketing team to drive his thought leadership platform, but wouldn’t take meetings with them to work on content concepts. When he was given contributed articles for his byline, he refused to approve them, saying they lacked an “ah-ha!” moment. That’s right—he expected his team to manufacture ah-ha moments and substantial thought leadership pieces without his participation. Unfortunately for him, there need to be thoughts from the thought leader, otherwise it’s only marketing content.
  • An executive loved wooing the foreign press, despite the company’s revenues coming primarily from the United States. He was surprised when a Silicon Valley-based reporter asked him about one of those interviews, where he’d continually referred to his team as “the beautiful people” and had remarked that everyone the company hired was young and attractive. Some executives struggle with the understanding there’s no “off the record” with journalists, and that sexist or discriminatory comments aren’t going to be able to be swept under the rug.

Luckily, these sorts of examples are outliers. Most of your executives aren’t going to have significant liabilities—like being a serial sexual harasser or an alcoholic—you have to work around. At most, you’ll just have to temper their enthusiasm and expectations. Building a profile as an industry thought leader takes time. But with the proper planning and support, you can get your executive team on the road to being your biggest PR assets.

Why You Need to Place Links in Articles

It used to be the holy grail of PR placements was coverage in a print publication. Despite the ego-boost it provided the interviewed executive and the PR team, it often didn’t drive business results. It’s not surprising given how unlikely it is that a reader of any given print publication might be in the market for your organization’s products and services at that exact moment.

Now, the most sought-after placements are ones that can directly drive qualified visitors back to your site. Why? Because unlike vanity coverage that can be dismissed as “nice-to-have” PR fluff, a link to your website can be tracked and quantified. That’s why you need to figure out a strategy to place links in published articles.

But it’s not like you can haphazardly pitch website backlinks to your media contacts list. Rather, to make this happen, you need to shift your perspective on how you pitch to the media.

Identify the Right Outlets to Pitch

If your goal is to get the New York Times to link back to your website, you’re probably out of luck unless it’s the only site hosting ground-breaking proprietary research. So how do you find sites that are a good target for getting your link accepted? Consider these guidelines:

  • Do they usually link? Does their coverage of your industry or topic typically include links to third-party sites? If so, to what kind of sites? You won’t get a link to your site from a publication that never links out to third-party content.
  • Is their site’s content indexed on Google? If a publication’s website is mostly behind a paywall, unless it’s the Wall Street Journal, it’s less likely to give you the reach you’re looking for as Google won’t have enough data to use to evaluate the value of a link from their site.
  • Is the site a respected authority on my topic? For a link to help you increase your domain authority, and increase your ranking in search, you need to obtain links from sites with a higher domain authority or rank on google for your topic area. First, search on google for your target keyword and see what publications are on the first page of results. Next, use the Moz toolbar to document the domain authority for your site and those of the target publications from your search.

If a site meets all of the above criteria, you’re ready to move on to your pitch.

Embed Links in Your Pitches

Traditionally, media pitches have included a bio of the executive that aims to show why they are a subject matter expert worthy of being considered for coverage. While a solid bio is still necessary, there’s more you can do in your pitches to garner coverage that ultimately links back to your site.

Expert Round-up Responses

Expert round-ups are typically conducted over email, making them an ideal vehicle for requesting a link back to your website. The key is to use one of your target keywords in your response and link it to an authoritative piece of ungated content on your website. This Forbes round-up with real estate experts, which links to a post on Trulia’s website, is a good example of this. If it’s a useful piece of content, most editors will leave in the link. Just make sure including the keyword in your answer doesn’t make it seem stilted or awkward. After all, you want to be included in the round-up whether or not your link makes it in.

Emailed Pitches

When you are pitching a journalist who isn’t familiar with your expert, embedded links in your pitch can both provide an illustration of their expertise, and give the journalist context that may also be included in their resulting coverage. For instance, you can link back to a piece of related thought leadership on your company blog, or a podcast or webinar they hosted on the topic. If the journalist found it helpful in providing deeper context for the story, there’s a good chance it can make it in on its own. If you have a good relationship with the reporter, you can always ask if it can be included once your pitch gets accepted. And if the link doesn’t make it into the final piece, you can always include it in a comment on the piece, or email the website editor and ask if it can be included.

Contributed Content

When you write contributed content for a site, you typically get a link to your bio or back to your site. Rather than linking that to your homepage, consider linking it to a landing page that is more likely to resonate with the publication’s core audience. And don’t forget to include a link to an ungated piece of content in the body of your article as well. Typically, editors will allow you to include one relevant link in the body of your article, as long as it’s not to overly promotional content.

Whenever you place a link in media coverage or contributed content, you’ll want to track it both the measure your results and to ensure it remains an active link. Too frequently, a website redesign can result in all-new page URLs. And after all the work you went through to garner those links, you won’t want to lose them. Make sure your web team is aware of these high-value links and uses redirects as necessary to keep them live. When an editor trusts you enough to link to your site, you don’t want to repay them by giving their readers a bad experience.

 

12 PR Blogs Your Competitors Are Reading (And 3 They Don’t Yet Know About)

What’s on your to do list today? Measuring the performance of your latest campaign? Writing and customizing pitches? Updating your media lists? Repurposing content? With so much to do, how are we supposed to keep up on the best work being done by colleagues (and competitors)? We’re here to take you straight to the sharpest writing, latest best practices, and key examples of what’s going on in PR today. In our reading list, we include big media properties like AdWeek as well as small niche blogs, like Solo PR Pro. It’s everything we read on a regular basis. Enjoy!

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The Skimm
This one’s all about the newsletter. Part of the work of PR is knowing what’s going on in the world and figuring out how that information fits into your brand messaging. Do current events impact your brand, the answer is most likely “yes.” Once a week you get straightforward, factual blurbs about wide-ranging topics. Think of it as the Cliff Notes for important stuff happening in the world right now. You’ll get timely takes on everything from Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment, the NBA finals, and explanations of whatever new acronym is popping up in social media.@theskimm followers: 237k

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Ragan’s PR Daily
Ragan’s PR Daily is an industry hub with everything the modern PR pro needs to keep their job skills current. Content runs the gamut of how-tos, videos, ebooks, career development, and think pieces. Recent timely posts include: 3 Lessons from Donna Karan’s Gaffe and Tepid Apology and 7 marketing lessons from ‘Blade Runner 2049’. Bonus: Ragan also hosts a popular Twitter chat #RaganChat: various writing summits, webinars, and industry awards. @PRDaily followers: 110k

PR Blogs PRSay

PRSay
PRSay—The Voice of Public Relations is the blog of the US’s largest organization of public relations professionals. PRSay’s goal is to provide thought leadership and professional development to those looking to succeed in the industry. It’s the go-to for anyone looking for a proven path to PR success. We like PRSay so much, we never miss their annual international conference. @prsa followers: 103k

L2inc daily insights PR blogs

L2inc
L2inc Daily Insights covers the PR industry with an emphasis on brands and how they’re competing in the market. Now that China’s consumer market is growing, there are also posts that cover Chinese trends and consumer technology innovations. The site shines when it compares campaigns, assessing successes and failures through the lens of data analytics. A sassy editorial tone with well-researched reporting makes it a must and fun read. @l2_digital followers: 89.2k

PR Blogs PRWeek

PR Week blog
The PR Week blog covers breaking news, memes, and controversial PR and marketing campaigns. They’re often also the first to point out a new shift in PR practice. As recent article began: “communications evolves at a frantic pace [and] it has never been more important to keep your knowledge, skills, and inspiration up to date to remain on top of your brief.”@PRWeekUS followers: 78.2k

PR blogs Adweek

AdWeek Social Pro Daily
Social Pro Daily covers the ins-and-outs of social media, doing an impressive job of keeping up with changes in algorithms and use cases for different social media features. They post about 3 new articles per day and have covered practical topics such as Instagram: Here’s How to Automatically Share Your Instagram Story to Your Facebook Story
and Facebook IQ Shared Some Research for You to Snack On. The site is timely and actionable. If you want to get the most out of the social media tools you use daily, there’s no better resource. @SocialProDaily followers: 68.7k

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Influence and Co.
Influence and Co. is full of slick reads about real-world PR problems and trend reports on high-concept marketing tactics. Savvy blog post titles like Three Simple Ways to Sound Brand Your Podcast and Hook, Line, and Sinker: Why PR Needs Content Marketing for a Complete Sell will get you clicking. @InfluenceandCo followers: 62.2k

PR BlogsKetchum

Ketchum
Publishing three blog posts a week, Ketchum shares their insights as an international award-winning agency. Topics cover emerging trends in the industries where they have expertise, managing influencer relationships, creating a comprehensive PR strategy, and working as a distributed comms team. Their vast knowledge stems from their 94 years of winning PR relationships.@KetchumPR followers: 55.4k

Stratechery PR Blogs

Stratechery
Ben Thompson spent his career developing public awareness and branding strategies for Apple, Microsoft, and Automattic. Reading his insights feels like you’re getting VIP information. The site operates on a unique “freemium” subscription plan, but the jam-packed analytical posts and daily updates (delivered via emails) will make you the smartest person at happy hour. @stratechery followers: 45.4k

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PR Couture
PR Couture is a fashion industry hub, or as they say, “haute spot,” for publicists, marketers, designers and brands. Not for the PR student, it aims to keep those already in the know up-to-date in the fashion industry. Beyond their fashion-focused media lists, they sell books and templates to help small PR agencies make a big impression on a tiny budget. The blog is brimming with well-penned career advice, how-to resources, shoutouts to successful campaigns, job listings, and insider links for fashion on social. Recent posts include posts about an inspiring pop-up hotel campaign and brand lessons from clothing brand, Outdoor Voices. @prcouture followers: 45.4k

Holmes Report PR Blogs

The Holmes Report
Trends, news, industry reports, podcasts, videos, and long form articles. They specialize in industry news. Their Agency Playbook (fka Agency Directory) is the PR industry’s most comprehensive listing of firms from every region and specialty; it’s an invaluable guide for keeping up on partnerships and researching PR verticals.@holmesreport followers: 22.7k

Spin Sucks

Spin Sucks
Spin Sucks is for both PR students and professionals. The majority of posts are penned by Gini Dietrich, founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. There are also posts from guest bloggers, who share perspectives on topics such as using hashtags, SnapChat, or competition within the PR space. Spin Sucks wins awards due to fun sections like Gin and Topics with weekly meme-able videos from around the Internet; and the Spin Sucks Inquisition, which interviews marketing and PR professionals from across the industry. @SpinSucks followers: 19.1k

A Few Surprises

For an extra edge, drop into these resources. The freshest insights sometimes comes from less expected places.

Reddit Public Relations
Public Relations on Reddit
This seven-year-old sub-reddit is dedicated to questions about the PR industry. Submissions consist of interesting PR-related articles or posts with questions or discussions for the community. While there’s no self promotion, it’s a great resource for those who are starting out in their careers or are solo PR pros looking to crowdsource some advice from their online community. Recent questions include:

  • Help me brainstorm the various technologies PR pros can use to do PR? I have a good list so far, what am I missing?
  • What are the common reasons that PR people ignore journalists?
  • Career change – Journalism to PR. @reddit followers: 512k

Solo PR

Solo PR Pro
Solo PR Pro provides the tools, education, advocacy, and community resources needed for communications consultants to succeed and grow. They support the one-person PR agency in their quest for profitability and independence. Recent timely and actionable posts include: Communications in the Era of Mass Violence, Fake News and Trolls and Prepare Your Business for Disaster, addressing natural disasters like the recent hurricanes that hit the US south and islands. An invaluable resource for solo pros, they also have a growing Twitter chat using #SoloPR on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of the month at 1pm ET. @SoloPR followers: 1810; @KarenSwim followers: 14.5k

Twitter Content Chat

#ContentChat
On Mondays at 12noon PT, you can rely on the fact that on the west coast, the sun will be directly above you and that Erika Heald will be holding her weekly Content Chat on Twitter. Recent topics have included: the role of emotions in viral content and building exceptional community experiences. Heald stacks the decks in Twitter chatter favor by having PR and marketing industry insiders on hand to take part in the conversation. You might recognize names such as Heidi Cohen at @heidicohen and Amanda Milligan at @FractlAgency. Heald is herself a skilled marketing consultant and social media influencer as a Sprout Allstar and Gluten Free food blogger. And even if you don’t recognize her name, you probably know a few of her former employers, Anaplan, Achievers, and Highwire PR. @SFerika, followers: 8.5k

When to Use Sponsored Content

Sponsored content is a hot topic right now. How does a savvy PR pro know when it’s best to use paid content, and when to avoid it? First, it’s important to understand that sponsored content is a subset of native advertising. Unlike native advertising – actual ads that are designed to look like the places in which they appear – sponsored content is intended to bring value to the person reading or viewing it, in addition to being a type of long-form ad for a service or product. However, the “ad” aspect should take second fiddle to the “value” aspect of good sponsored content.

Why the stress on adding value? Thanks to over-use of native advertising to spread questionable products and news stories, sponsored content has developed a bit of a trust problem. Since other brands slap-dash efforts might affect opinions of sponsored content, your brand will need to work a little harder to earn and keep the reader’s trust.

Some brands have a clear path to offering valuable information for their readers. For example, Consumer’s Credit Union has placed several items of sponsored content into the Daily Herald, promoting credit unions by making their potential value clear, and by offering advice on common financial problems, such as the impact on your taxes of a home assessment. There are good things happening with these articles. First, the host publication, the Daily Herald, has them clearly marked as sponsored content and has taken it a step further by making their sponsored content searchable. This presents the content in context – important for trust building. Second, the pieces are simple blog posts – very attainable on a tight budget for most companies – and offer information that the reader can use. While the idea is to inspire the reader to reach out to the credit union for more information, the approach is “helpful first, sales second.”

What if you sell a service and not a product? Sponsored content works for that also. It’s not uncommon to see a business that offers a service, like consulting or marketing, write a sponsored post on a site like Marketing Land to get in front of their readers. In keeping with our previous example, sticking to text and submitting long-form articles or blog posts with plenty of visuals is going to be your most cost-effective way to get into sponsored content.

Some well-known examples of sponsored video content come from big brands like Budweiser, but small to medium sized business aren’t priced out. Thanks to social media platforms like Facebook offering an in to sponsored content, you can get content like a sponsored video published in new places on a tight budget. In fact, it’s probably going to cost you more to have a good video made (unless you have a video wiz on your team) than it will to have it placed. However, our assessment is that words on a page with good images are still your best bet.

What are some guidelines for sponsored content?

1. Understand your target market. For example, a recent study of global executives showed a surprising result: 84% of those surveyed are open to high-quality, clearly marked, helpful advertising from brands. Younger users of tools like Instagram, Imgur, and Facebook are also open to appropriate ads as long as they aren’t pandering in tone, and readers of blogs like Buzzfeed and Bustle have come to expect sponsored content, making them more open to it (as long as it is well done – if it is not, they will let you know!). Great PR analytics can help you find where your audience is and if the sites and platforms are open to your content.

2. Assess multiple potential venues. Social media platforms and news sites are usually the first to come to mind when brands think of doing sponsored content, but much of the business world is still stuck using email, for example. Partnering with a great email newsletter to reach their audience should not be overlooked. Other potential contenders include popular podcasts, where you can create audio content that fits their market.

3. Make sure your content is in a format that is welcome. Auto-play video and audio are seen as incredibly intrusive and are one of the top reasons people use ad blocker and audio blocker plug-ins and extensions. Take a good look at the future host of your content to understand what their audience wants to see, then work hard to fit in.

4. Do a thorough assessment of cost and audience before partnering with an influencer for sponsored content. Influencer marketing is popular right now, and Instagram and Snapchat certainly have their share of influencers creating sponsored content with brands. However, there are few industry standards when it comes to compensation and contract, so you’ll have to set your own guardrails here, and work with your PR firm to evaluate fit before reaching out.

5. Disclosure, disclosure, disclosure. The FTC is setting clear rules about disclosures these days, so make sure you understand them and comply. Being creative with images and hashtags can help with disclose requirements on sites that are tight for space, like Twitter. If you’re not comfortable disclosing that your ad is sponsored, an old school guest post swap might be a better way to go for your brand.

If you’re wondering if sponsored content is right for your PR strategy, do your due diligence while setting up your communication plan.

This post was originally published on our site on January 3, 2017. On Saturdays we republish content that our readers might find useful.

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and LinkedIn Updates You Need to Know

2017 has seen a stack of exciting updates from all the major social media platforms. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, YouTube and Google have been responsive to evolving needs and quick to provide innovative solutions to improve user experience.

With social media evolving rapidly, we thought we’d make it easier for you to stay ahead of the social media game with the K.I.S.S round up of changes we’re loving.

Check out what our favorite platforms have been up to recently, below.

Facebook

Facebook Messenger ads are now available to advertisers worldwide. This is super exciting, as businesses now have another medium to promote their offerings and engage with their customers. The company also introduced Messenger Platform 2.1 which allows businesses to enrich their conversational experiences on Messenger.

As you may have already noticed, Facebook is trying ads in Marketplace. Their objective is to reduce the number of advertisements shown in the Newsfeed and to provide another place for marketers to connect with their audience.

FACT:

Facebook’s quarter two earnings report revealed that mobile ad revenue now accounts for a whopping 87% of their total advertising earnings! Are you creating a seamless mobile experience for your audience?

Instagram

In continuing Instagram’s direct push to take back its audience held hostage by Snapchat, Instagram has introduced photo and video replies to Stories.

The social sharing platform has also introduced targeting based on Instagram profile activity. This feature allows you to create a custom audience of people who have watched an Instagram video previously or to target users based on their activity on your business profile.

Snapchat

Let’s talk selfies!

Not one to sit idle, Snapchat has fired back at Instagram with the platform introducing multi-Snap recording which allows users to record multiple ten-second Snaps continuously for six videos.

New voice filters and the paperclip feature (clickable links) are among the updates released in the last three months.

Snapchat also released Snap Publisher, for advertisers to quickly and easily turn images or videos into vertical ads for Snapchat.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn has introduced Website Demographics. This free tool, provides businesses with insights such as website audience, the information is gleaned from a company’s LinkedIn information. This feature allows you to filter a website audience using eight dimensions; job title, job function, industry, company, country, job seniority, company size, and location.

LinkedIn is also working on improving their data analytics with the introduction of new features to help businesses understand and improve their campaigns. More detailed campaign insights and recommendations, as well as expanded demographic reporting, are among the three new analytics features to be launched later this year.

Tip: Keep an eye out for LinkedIn native video which is rumored to be launching soon!

FACT:

55% of millennials reach out to their LinkedIn network when they’re starting to think about their next opportunity.

These social media platform updates you need to know present an opportunity for brands to further communicate and engage with their audience. Knowing how platforms evolve, whether via their search capabilities, video offerings, algorithm changes, or new advertising and targeting features allows brands to remain nimble when creating communication strategies.

Social to Scale Building a Social Media Program

This article originally appeared in The K.I.S.S Marketing Agency, was written by Darnelle O’Brien from Business2Community, and legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Are You Ready for Proactive PR?

PR is evolving, along with the rest of marketing. Gone are the days when public relations pros would blast out a press release to massive lists of journalists, hoping for a bite, just waiting for reporters to call them for comments on a story.

Successful PR practitioners no longer sit and wait for opportunities to come their way—or worse, allow a crisis to come along to highjack the public conversation about their brand.

Increasingly, our roles require proactive thinking about the best way to tell our stories.

Basics of Proactive PR Planning

When you’re in proactive PR mode, don’t neglect the basics. For instance, it’s a good idea to have a PR content calendar for the coming year that lays out all the opportunities you may have to tell your story proactively. Include things like product releases and updates, financial news, events like trade shows and so on. By looking ahead at the company’s calendar, you’ll be able to see what’s coming up so you can factor that into your PR planning.

Also, include seasonal events your brand may be able to capitalize on. For example, the end of the year marks a time when companies can write wrap-up articles or blog posts to place in industry publications. The same goes for pieces that look ahead to trends coming up in the new year.

Factor Trends into Your Approach

Can PR pros predict the future? Maybe not. But they can—and should—be anticipating the next big thing in their industry.

Proactive PR means you’re seeking out opportunities to actively promote your brand while aligning the message with business goals. Part of being proactive includes the ability to spot trends. To capitalize on a trend, the key is to get on board while the conversation is picking up steam. Wait too long, and your brand will be left behind while the trend takes off—without you.

So, how do you get a sense of trends to watch? Use your media intelligence platform to take a temperature of your industry and get an idea of what hot topics are surfacing.

Another way to stay on top of trends is to watch what’s happening beyond your industry. Looking at the bigger picture can help you keep a pulse on trends that may affect your business. Follow news from a variety of sources to help you stay up to speed.

A cautionary note: You may want to avoid negative trends or those that don’t align with your brand’s values. Don’t jump on a trend just for the sake of being trendy. Make sure it’s actually a fit.

Data Can Help Inform Your Proactive PR Efforts

Incorporating data when planning is always a good idea. If you’re looking at metrics to set future strategy, a platform like Meltwater can help you see the results of your efforts so you can use that information in the planning stages of upcoming campaigns. In addition, looking at data over time can be useful to help uncover patterns and trends that will help inform future efforts.

Building a case with the data also helps you lobby for more budget or sell your idea to move in a particular direction to your CMO or other executives. After all, the C-suite is much less likely to buy into your brilliant PR plan if isn’t based on some real numbers. With a data-driven audience, you can use the metrics to optimize your efforts and learn from the past what worked.

The Art and Science of Proactive PR

While it may sound like a lot of work, being a proactive PR pro can be more rewarding, because you’re helping to drive the conversation, versus reacting to things that fall into your lap.

And if you can master the basics and merge those with the art of trendspotting, then back it all up with data, all the better.

“I think there’s an art and a science to trendspotting,” Brandi Boatner, Digital Experience Manager, IBM. “I can’t say there’s a magic bullet formula or algorithm for how to identify trends, but you should be able to understand data sets and analyze the data to extract insights that you understand but can also act on in your daily work.”

PR Trends: A Holiday Mindset

Let’s cut right to the chase; time is of the essence when figuring out the mindset of this season’s holiday consumer. Success will come to those creating alluring digital personal experiences. This is important for all consumer demographics, but perhaps most relevant for the subset of consumers 35 and under.  It is safe to say that holidays are a joyful time but can also create high levels of anxiety, even for those of us who embrace the season wholeheartedly. In this heightened emotional and high dollar consumer marketplace, savvy brands must connect with their customer(s) by creating an emotional personal experience. To understand their fragility, not only do you need to show empathy, but you must also be relevant, useful, trustworthy, and respectful.

Truths

Indulge me for a moment while I discuss the relevance and importance of one of my all-time favorite current Zeitgeist catchphrases, “digital Darwinism.” As technology and society evolve in parallel, so does the human social behavior. As Darwin’s research so aptly showed us, it is not the strongest or most intelligent of the species that survives; it is the one that is most adaptable to change. Change in many areas of human evolution happens slowly, giving us ample time to adapt to what’s new. With technology, human behavior has to adapt at a much faster rate. Consumers cannot be left to figure this out on their own. In an ideal circumstance, we will hold their hand, gleefully guiding them down a glittery path of adaptive AI technological realization.

To ultimately thrive in this age of digital Darwinism, companies must humanize AI and give it purpose by engaging the consumer through a lens of extreme personalization. Alexa and Google Home have already infiltrated our homes, so much so that NPR’ s Morning Edition recently aired a program discussing the importance of politely “talking” to these devices while around children so that kids may be guided by proper grown-up social cues. In past posts, we’ve stressed the importance of avoiding jumping on a trend because of hype. In this case, we encourage you to dive in headfirst and quickly figure out ways to creatively and empathetically connect with your customer through AI personalization and if possible, give them something they didn’t know they wanted and now can’t live without.

PR Trends

Tailor is a startup that is part of Google’s incubator, Area 120. At first glance, it looks like a run of the mill over hyped stylist-assisted services most closely akin to Stitchfix without the box delivery. Look more closely, and you’ll see a savvy nuanced subsection as of yet untapped by the more familiar competition. Appealing to anyone with a closet full of clothes they no longer wear and don’t know what to do with, i.e., most of us, Tailor has a service to help you find new ways to wear items you already own or help you get rid of items that don’t suit you or fit poorly.  Curious, in that this model doesn’t naturally lend itself to new sales, but rest assured, once the customer’s trust has been built, purchase recommendations by said trusted stylist would most likely be taken without much hesitation. There we have it, empathetic, relevant, useful, trustworthy and respectful, the magic combo that will lead to an engaged and loyal customer base ready for digital marketplace evolution.

Sometimes as we evolve, we are so focused on the new; we lose sight of innovations along the way that were loved by the consumer and then discarded for one reason or another. Step on up nostalgia! Change is hard. Humans love to cozy up to the familiar, nestle into things that make sense and feel right. When we find something we are in love with, we put up a fight when it is taken away. It makes evolving difficult for some. The mobile device industry is aware of this, and several big players with not so distant device extinctions are reclaiming their territory, or at least trying to.

Nokia has relaunched an icon amidst enthusiastic fanfare. The Nokia 3310 achieved cult status 17 years ago, so much so that Finland (where it was designed) created an emoji for it as a cultural symbol along with the sauna and the headbanger. The phone was one of the highest selling phones of its time and was known for its durability as well as a cool game called Snake. Durability isn’t exactly one of the selling points of today’s smartphones, and consumers are hip to the fact that phones are made to last just long enough to benefit the manufacturer. Well, what’s old is new again, and Nokia is nostalgically banking on it.

PR Takeaway

Emotions are high, consumers are feeling especially vulnerable and brands have a great opportunity to do a little consumer hand holding. This holiday season, whether it’s leading consumers down the overwhelming path of digital Darwinism by humanizing and personalizing the AI experience, or appealing to a beautiful sense of the past by reinvigorating nostalgia, make sure to err heavily on empathy and authenticity. Though consumer emotions are fragile and heightened, so too is their no bull spidey sense.

 

What are the five most important questions to ask any media intelligence vendor?

The number of media measurement tools available online has grown exponentially, affording the opportunity for PR professionals to learn more about their audiences and how they behave. While they are valuable – particularly since the advent of social media – the sheer volume has produced an oversaturated market where the amount of data available makes it difficult to outline what is and isn’t contributing to the success of a campaign.

To ensure a measurement software provider is right for you, we recommend you map out you or your client’s exact requirements before subscribing. Outline your PR objectives and ask some simple questions like how big their source database is, or if they have the knowledge and background to provide detailed information about a particular industry. Also, look at the breadth of their coverage and size of marginal errors – these important details will make a world of difference to your next campaign and will guarantee profitable and meaningful results.

Some questions to consider –

  1. How big is their source database? What types of outlets do they cover?

You want to ensure their source database includes all of the media you intend to engage with – including outlets from your first, second and third tiers. If you want a rounded summary of your PR efforts, you’ll need them to cover earned, owned and paid media.

2. How can they help you measure and identify the right metrics to quantify your PR efforts more accurately?

This is the nitty-gritty stuff. You want to look at the types of measurements they provide – do you want a simple media monitoring service or a service with multi-measurement frameworks that explain more about your audience? Consider their measurement accuracy and read reviews.

3. How fast can they update you?

Modern media is fast-moving so it pays to be updated in real-time – or as close to real-time as possible. Consider how and when they provide you with updates (weekly, daily, hourly) and look for services with automated email alerts.

4. Do they provide retrospective data?

Having access to old campaigns and historical data means you can mirror the elements of the campaigns that worked, and will ensure previous mistakes aren’t made twice. We recommend you have access to information from up to two years ago, benchmarking new campaigns against old ones along the way.

5. What does their support network look like?

If you’re a local agency or business, you’ll want a measurement service with local industry knowledge so you’re not wasting valuable time explaining things over the phone. If you’re a multi-national agency or business, you’ll want 24/7 support regardless of time zones and public holidays. Depending on your requirements, look for a software provider with local and/or international teams – either way, they should both be able to provide one-on-one support when and where you need it.

To learn how Meltwater can help you with your media intelligence, contact us.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn and was written by Mimrah Mahmood. For more of these insights, please connect with Mimrah on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mimrah