Storytelling is magic for brands

2015_03_17-Storytelling-For-Startups
via

The explosive growth of social media and content marketing means more opportunities to promote your brand. With so many companies vying for attention in the digital sphere, how do you stand out? The answer lies in engaging storytelling.

Creating a story around your product allows you to shape consumer brand perception. After years of declining sales, Apple rebounded after its 1997 “Think different” rebranding campaign.

shapiro_Apple

Apple relied on its outsider status and imagery of iconic visionaries to compel customers to “rebel” by buying its products. The company successfully gambled on the concept of individuality – rather than technical capabilities – to sell computers.

At its core, storytelling isn’t a sales pitch. It’s meant to emotionally connect with consumers, in the process building loyalty, attracting new customers, and increasing brand visibility.

Beyond traditional television or print ads, the digital age has equipped marketers with new platforms for visual storytelling. Social media channels like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat allow even the smallest company to gain a greater amount of exposure than with typical advertising – thanks to free or affordable posting options – with the added benefit of possible post amplification when fans share its content.

It’s key to follow a few guidelines for savvy social media storytelling.

  1. Use arresting visuals. Visual content, like photos, receive 40 times more shares and 90 percent more clicks than text-only content.
  2. Infuse your posts with personality. Use an informal voice in your writing to attract and retain your audience.
  3. Create magnetic characters. Your customers should root for your protagonist, even if it’s just short-form content, like Microsoft’s Instagram post above.
  4. Don’t give it all away. Posting teasers can lead to additional offline or mobile marketing opportunities.

How have you successfully used storytelling to sell your brand?

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30 predictions for social media & social media marketing in 2016

via llcc.edu
via llcc.edu

As the last month of 2015 dawns in a flurry of gift-wrapping and cocoa-drinking, prediction lists start their steady creep across the internet, with every technology prognosticator, online marketing expert, and social media blogger clamoring to forecast the potential state of our digital world in 2016.

They might be right; they might be wrong – only time will tell. So, what’s in store for us on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest next year? Let’s learn what the fortune-tellers at SocialMediaToday anticipate:

TWITTER

via socialmediatoday.com
via socialmediatoday.com

More Emoji

We used to star tweets we like. Now we “heart them.” Soon we’ll be able to express a full range of (cartoon) emotions. Twitter is experimenting with an emoji reactions tool. Why? Emoji are incredibly popular the world over, and are more likely to hook a younger crowd than traditional icons. Expect this feature to become widespread in the first half of 2016.

Enhanced Engagement

Twitter has always skewed young. To retain this vital demographic and ensure its continued growth, Twitter will roll out more interactive features. In addition to emoji, Twitter will further develop its poll feature and branded event emoji, the latter of which has already been used by Coke, Star Wars, Taylor Swift, and Starbucks.

Customer Service

A significant amount of customers turn to brands on Twitter to answer customer service queries. In fact, many bigger players have hired employees dedicated solely to social media to meet this need. Twitter has evolved to make it easier for businesses to interact with their customers by removing direct message character limits (previously limited to 140) and instituting quote tweets, which allow users to track relevant conversations. The next step? A streamlined platform catering to customer service, possibly even a form of artificial intelligence-driven assistant service. Earlier this year, Twitter acquired AI provider Whetlab, so clearly something is in the works.

FACEBOOK

FB
via fb.com

On-Platform Content

Facebook is making a big push to keep its users on its site, rather than following links to other sites. Its newest features include Instant Articles – posts uploaded directly to Facebook (reducing load time and giving creators access to new tools like in-post video) – and on-platform blogging with its revamped Notes. With a new focus on aesthetics and customization, the new Notes (screenshot above) is a big improvement over the bare-bones style of the previous version.

Oculus

Last year, Facebook made headlines with its $2 billion purchase of virtual reality startup Oculus VR. While the first Oculus headsets will soon be available, virtual reality will take time to become truly transformative technology. In 2016, we’ll likely see VR take its first baby steps on Facebook with more 360-degree videos and the rise of VR gaming. We’ll probably witness a greater impact from VR in 2017.

PINTEREST

via pinterest.com
via pinterest.com

Advanced Search Tools

Pinterest launched a very clever search tool this month (apparently simply called “our crazy-fun new visual search tool“): You can search a visual element within a pin. Say you’re redecorating and spy a lamp you like in a pin showing someone’s kitchen. Now, you can highlight the lamp and Pinterest will bring up visually similar items, so you’ll know where to find the it. Pinterest will look to further improve the functionality of its search tools to make them more personal – and useful – than ever, potentially resulting in an uptick in ecommerce transactions.

More Buying

Speaking of ecommerce, this year saw the launch of “Buyable Pins” allowing pinners to buy featured products. As ecommerce and search options expand and become more valuable, Pinterest may develop better algorithms to predict what pinners will want and offer a more streamlined on-platform buying system.

What are your predictions for 2016?

Dial a local business… via Facebook ad

Score one for the little guys: As part of its “local awareness” objective, Facebook today introduced a new feature allowing its users to telephone a business through a “Call Now” button on newsfeed ads.

When the initial campaign launched in October 2014, local businesses who bought Facebook ad space could target nearby potential customers. With this latest addition, mobile users interested in contacting the business can tap the “Call Now” button, which opens a user’s phone keypad and automatically dials the number listed.

Via marketingland.com

Previously, businesses could include “Get Directions” and “Like” buttons on their pages, but the “Call Now” button is Facebook’s first feature to truly connect consumer and local business owner.

How a 113-year-old brand saved Christmas (or at least invigorated its holiday sales)

via thepolarexpresscontest.com
via thepolarexpresscontest.com

Everyone knows The Polar Express, the massively popular children’s tale from 1985 that spawned the Oscar-nominated film. Less common knowledge: Lionel LLC, the 113-year-old toy company, is the only manufacturer holding the official license to release collectible Polar Express-themed train sets.

With the 10th anniversary of the film approaching, Lionel aimed to harness the attention of locomotive-loco fans with a marketing push from September to November this year, coinciding with the jingle bells (and jingling pocket change) signifying the holiday season. As an older company, Lionel had to get creative to breathe life into its brand. With this in mind, the marketing team developed a contest, entitled “I Believe,” to drive holiday sales while highlighting the visibility of the Polar Express brand and Lionel’s product line.

Railroad enthusiasts were rewarded for their efforts. Lionel gifted an official Polar Express train set once a month for three months, finding winners among those who participated on the company’s social media pages. Contestants socially engaged on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ or signed up for an email newsletter for a chance to gain a train. Lionel got an extra publicity boost from Warner Bros. as the studio promoted the sweepstakes on its own social media platforms.

The marketing project was a success: Nearly 70 percent of people who visited the contest page entered the sweepstakes.

Has your company ever run a social media-centric promotion? What were the results?

Sixty Things You Should Know About Social Media in Travel

Via Tnooz, by Julie McNamee from Webnwords.

Here’s a selection of mostly social media tips that I picked up from World Travel Market in London this week.

Social media’s “Dirty Little Secret” (Social data)

Sarah Kennedy Ellis – Sabre Labs

1) Instagram is the place to be for brands – people engage with brands 40 times more on that platform than they do on Twitter, and 20 times more than Facebook. Great for brand engagement.

2) Photos aid conversion – another good reason for making use of Instagram.

3) According to Sabre Labs research, more men submitted photos with their check-ins on FourSquare than women.

4) 60% of smiley faces and exclamation marks were used by women on check ins.

5) Amazon’s Mechanical Turk is a great research tool, eg for analysing the subject matter of a large number of photographs.

6) Small companies with small budgets can access 10% of Twitter’s feed for research purposes.

7) A good way of searching Instagram is by hashtag #.

Facebook – Future of travel marketing

Lee McCabe – Facebook

8) Facebook marketing is all about:

  • Efficiency
  • Multi-channel (across devices)
  • Identity

9) Facebook tools include Facebook Exchange – re-targeting within one hour of leaving the website.

10) Facebook Connect – for increased conversion rate with easy one-click logging in, plus lots of profile information.

11) The travel journey includes and is helped by Facebook:

  • Dreaming – is kicked off by viewing friends’ photos
  • Planning
  • Booking
  • The experience – is shared with updates and photo sharing
  • Reflecting – the photos kick off friends’ dreaming

12) Mobile’s is clearly where it’s at – an increasingly so in the future

13) 45% of the world’s population are forecast to have a smartphone by 2015.

14) For the first time, digital media consumption has overtaken TV in the US – driven by mobile.

15) There are 874 million mobile daily active users of Facebook.

16) Match the people on your CRM database with their Facebook profiles to find out more about them and connect with them.

17) Graph search is getting better at targeting hotels and restaurants that you really might like (with the help of friend recommendations).

How travel bloggers impact the booking funnel

Debbie Hindle – Four bgb

18) The traditional marketing funnel is: Awareness – Interest – Desire – Action

19) The new marketing funnel (c/o Xavier Blanc) is:

  • Reach
  • Engage
  • Activate
  • Nurture

20) Your customers don’t care about you as a brand. They care about themselves.

21) Content marketing = creating the information your customers are passionate about.

22) Example of an effective campaign is the #Feelmorealive campaign by adventure travel company Exodus – blog posts, photos, videos – lots of content by bloggers and lots of shares.

exodus

23) Another is the Liming Appreciation Society for St Vincent and the Grenadines – a group of bloggers invited to provide posts, imagery and video. 60% of searchers have viewed one of the videos before booking. The most popular post was shared 2,000 times.

24) Traditional marketing is about telling the world what a rockstar you are. Content marketing is showing the world what a rockstar you are.

Travel blogging

Keith Jenkins – Velvet Escape

25) The value of bloggers? Niche experts, personal experience, immediacy and an audience.

26) The booking funnel is:

  • Inspiration
  • Influence
  • The Final Nudge

27) As a blogger, one photo Jenkins posted (of ice floating) was viewed 2,000 times and resulted in four bookings for a travel company overnight.

28) Bloggers are good for giving tips and sharing ideas on where to go/what to do.

29) The feedback from people who have taken their advice is invaluable for the company concerned.

30) When engaging a blogger, have specific objectives in mind. What do you want out of the relationship?:

  • Brand exposure?
  • Online content?
  • To drive engagement?
  • To grow your social media followers?
  • To make sales?

31) Monitor the results of your blogging campaign by

  • Using tracking codes
  • Using vouchers or downloads
  • Using tracking systems
  • Keeping track of blogger posts

32) Agree the number of posts, tweets etc with the blogger before you start.

Nicholas Montemaggi – Emilia Romagna Tourism Board

33) Needed a way to make people more aware of Emilia Romagna, so came up with the idea of Blogville – providing an apartment for the use of bloggers from all over the world. The tag line was “Eat, feel and live like a local in Italy”.

blogville

34) Only cost to the tourist board was for the apartment – bloggers paid their way.

35) Master of the house present at all times to help and advise the bloggers.

36) Campaign carried out over 2 years – 120 bloggers and 500 blog posts, 3.8 million Twitter users reached and 700,000 visitors later…

37) Example direct benefit – a Chinese blogger went on a cooking course and wrote a post with lots of photos. The organisation who ran the course reported 2 bookings from China overnight!

38) Important: Spaghetti bolognese isn’t a real dish – it’s tagliatelle ragu! :)

Lee Stuart – Caliber

39) Bloggers bring authenticity and honesty.

40) Brands and PR companies should look for focused blogs – not necessarily big blogs.

41) Look at the kind of keywords the bloggers rank for – there’ll be a ready-made audience for your product if it fits that keyword.

42) Bloggers are hyper-local.

43) They can act as guides to your destination.

Are you mobile?

44) The cost of marketing an app is going to be much more (and much more important) than building the app.

45) Tip for the future – we’re going to be seeing mobile-only companies in future.

Social media masterclass 2013

Alan Young – TrustYou

46) 81% of online reviews are positive (according to TrustYou stats).

47) In the UK, 49% of online travel reviews are on Booking.com, 37% on TripAdvisor.

48) The more reviews you have the more likely you are to benefit from them.

Debbie Hindle – Four BGB

49) Kuoni has wifi in its shops so people can check TripAdvisor when they’re discussing booking a holiday.

50) When coming up with your new holiday campaign, think about you want your customers to feel. Eg, how did you feel on your first holiday?

51) Viator have pages worth of information on each of the locations they feature. They have lots of useful stuff to keep visitors on your site and make it more likely you’ll book with them. They also reward customers with treats and rewards and have conversations with them.

Google and travel: Sharing best practice

Sarah McDonald – Google head of travel

52) Airbnb has a great guide to Brixton that gives lots of authentic, interesting information about the area.

brixton airbnb

53) The questions everyone asks themselves when choosing something.

  • Is this product what it says it is?
  • Is it right for me?
  • Is it at the right price?

54) Video can address some of these questions. For example it can give a street view from inside the hotel and a better feel for what your hotel is and where it is.

55) YouTube isn’t as good as Twitter and Facebook at helping consumers find relevant material. Brands should take not and learn to optimise videos.

56) An excellent site is Visit Brasil – consumers can make their own wishlists on what they want to hear about and the site will give hand back relevant information.

57) Have a common experience across all channels.

58) Use relevancy and urgency like the big hotel booking sites do.

59) The journey isn’t just online or offline – there are touch-points on both for a lot of people.

60) 89% of social media users share holidays photos while away – even if they don’t share the rest of the year. Connect with them when they do it and continue to talk to them when they come back. Reach out at every stage.

NB: This is a contributed article by Julie McNamee from Webnwords. Follow McNamee on Twitter.

15 Digital Media Resources You Might Have Missed

Reblogged from Mashable: From an innovative 23-year-old Vine creator to a “digital detox” summer camp for adults, here’s a roundup of the latest digital tricks, tips, and other news of note. – S.S.

Adobe-ipad-app1
By Elisha Hartwig
Another month has flown by, and we’re really hoping all those April showers will (finally) bring us May flowers. With graduation and Mother’s Day quickly approaching, it would be easy to miss out on the latest updates in tech and social media — but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

As always, we at Mashable have rounded up the most noteworthy features to keep you informed, so read on to learn about new Facebook features and cool digital tools to make your life easier.

Screen shot courtesy of The Grid, Kelby Media Group

Brits may say “Cheerio” to Instagram, Facebook, Flickr photo rights

via Mashable
via Mashable

Brits, take notice: your Instagram, Facebook, and Flickr photos may now be up for grabs.

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act includes sweeping changes concerning social media image ownership. It passed parliament and last week, it received Royal Assent to become law.

Says Digital Trends reporter Francis Bea, “The clause that’s a cause for genuine concern is the ‘Orphan Works and Extended Collective Licensing Clause 79,’ and according to The Register, which is calling it the ‘Instagram Act,’ it means that photos whose owners cannot be found can be used by anyone.”

Because most photos in the social media sphere lack metadata or other identifying information, a company or individual can claim it as an orphan after briefly searching for an owner. They will then be able to sublicense the image.

The only alternative to protect yourself and your photos is to register each image through an official database, PLUS.

The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, whose signatories include a majority of the world’s nations, are required by law to recognize the makers’ rights of ownership for works – like photos posted to social media sites – in a more diligent manner than the new law. What will be the fallout? It might all boil down to how Berne countries react to British products using photos obtained through the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act.

What is your reaction to this controversial new law?

Twitter, Google go transparent with information requests

via Zuberance.com
via Zuberance.com

Did you know today is Data Privacy Day? And what better way to celebrate than with new reports from Twitter and Google about government and rights holders’ requests for user information in 2012? Google, the internet giant that it is, received far more requests than Twitter, with about 21,000 requests from July through December last year versus Twitter’s 1,800. You can find Twitter’s transparency report here and Google’s transparency report here.

The bottom line: government requests for user data is on the rise.

Twitter saw an increase in information requests (from 849 in Q1/Q2 to 1,009 in Q3/Q4) and removal requests (from six to 42). There was a slight decrease in copyright notices: 3,628, down from 3,378.

Governments asked Google to turn over user information 21,389 times between July and December 2012, – an increase of 70 percent since 2009. The United States government isn’t the only one to ask for information, but the number of its requests far outstrips other countries. During the latter half of 2012, the U.S. government racked up 8,438 data requests, vastly more than the country with the second most requests – India with 2,431.

Facebook has been conspicuously silent on the transparency front. When asked about its own data, the company released this statement:

We do not have any immediate plans to release a report, however, we have been working diligently on meaningful transparency such as the Law Enforcement Guidelines in the Help Center and our work with the Digital Due Process coalition to ensure the privacy of our users. While we will continue to evaluate our plans in this area, we devote our primary efforts to auditing every request we receive to ensure the strictest compliance with law. You can find out more here – http://on.fb.me/LEGuidelines

How to get Facebook “likes” starting from zero – let’s go!

Found a fabulous article from social media specialist Kevin Gomez over at Supercool Creative. Hey, with a name like “Supercool Creative,” you really can’t go wrong. – S.S.

For brands and startups alike, Facebook is a great social media channel to promote your image, increase your fan base and reach your audience. The interaction between you and your consumers can be the personal touch that distinguishes you from your competitors. There remains but only one issue: how to get lots of followers to interact with when you’re starting from zero. Building your fan base from scratch, with no brand equity, is one of the hardest things to do in Social Media but these next steps will help get you started.

Invest your time

Let’s face facts. You are going to be spending a lot of time on Facebook. The first assignment is to know your product’s demographic. If you are a startup clothing company, or a mobile game app then you’re going to target individuals who have interest in your product. Create a Facebook page with solid content and information about your product. Be informative, but brief. Always have new content via pictures or videos in order to entertain and promote.

Begin to research & observe competing companies in similar markets. Review the individuals who follow those companies, and what types of interactions they have going on. You are your product, so casually jump into a conversation. Do not market on other pages. That’s spam. Be casual and real. Introduce yourself to group leaders who can Like and share your page with their personal followers. This requires a lot of time and patience; however, the anticipation of a viral breakthrough for your page will keep you logged in, researching and engaging.

Start with your friends

Your personal friends, family members and connections on your personal Facebook page are the best places to start finding a following. Provide opportunity for a community to form on your Facebook page by posting relatable status updates that will tie your demo to your product. Ask your friends to Like your page, and if possible share your page. The Facebook snowball effect occurs when one Like leads to another, and so forth, but don’t stop there. Keep researching and updating your followers.

If you’re a clothing brand, promote your latest design or introduce a model to your friends. If you’re a mobile game app, promote images from the game to stir up curiosity amongst your Facebook friends. Remember don’t be a desert, where you hardly ever update your Facebook. But don’t be a jungle either, cluttering your Facebook with meaningless posts. As you attain more followers, remember to catch them up with recaps or summaries of your product’s latest news.

 Get personal

Facebook is the place to post personal information about you and your relationship to your product. Researchers have found that personal statements from actual people working for the company are the most effective status updates. Companies all over Facebook have drawn a lot of attention by posting family photos, or posting personal status updates about their day at work. If there is something going on in the office or at a particular event this is the medium to host your personal content.

When your followers begin to ask questions, jump in and share your thoughts. Welcome questions and inquiries about your next event or updates. You want to make sure that your status updates have a strong follow through on your behalf. If you promise to update your fans then do it! Create a daily competition in order to keep Facebook users coming back to visit your page. The best thing you can do is create video blogs that you can host on YouTube but share on Facebook. Your personal mug on your products Facebook will help your demo position your product in their minds. Be sure to use positive content, and if you’re camera shy think about bringing in an actor to help with your product’s image. Provide images that are aesthetically pleasing to the eyes.

 Content

Strong content is always relevant to your product and fan base. Videos, pictures and memes work perfectly with Facebook. If you do use the very popular memes, remember that each meme has its own persona, and the task is to tie the meme to your product. There are several websites that let you generate memes that can be edgy and comical. Also, online videos are entertaining for your fan base, and a great source for highlighting product features while showcasing your brand image. Facebook is a great place to post pictures because it can get cluttered with text and a picture can be just what you need to tell a story. Remember to always show, not tell, and the more concrete imagery you have, the more your fan base will inclined to continue visiting your Facebook page and sharing your content and brand message.

Facebook shares

Finally you want your page to be shared amongst followers in order to get more views. The best form of promotion is to network with other brands or other companies who don’t necessarily do what you do, but can benefit from your product. Help each other, and share each other. For example a young startup clothing company that promotes an urban skateboarding style may partner up with a local rock band playing at the next skate park event. Create banners, pictures and promotional videos that can be shared by your partners. This will create the opportunity for you to physically share your Facebook page in person at events that touch base with your demographic. Think outside the box, and your page will begin to get shared by your followers.

Networking is one of the best ways to promote. Don’t just look for followers but look to follow other companies or individuals who will follow you back. Soon enough you will have built a brand image and brand equity. You will become recognizable, and other startups will want to partner with you in order to attain more Facebook shares.

Never let your activity feed on Facebook become an activity famine. Be consistent.

Social media tips & tricks, part II

image via carleton.edu

Have you caught up with last week’s Social Media Tips & Tricks, part I? Guess you’re ready for part II! Read on to discover more ways to synergize your social media presence and increase your influence:

  • Demonstrate your social media clout by boosting your Klout score and highlighting your numbers of followers
  • Provide an RSS button on your blog; each new post will automatically queue up on subscribers’ Google Readers
  • Make your LinkedIn profile public
  • Identify power players in your industry and follow their social media accounts to stay on top of the latest trends
  • Frequently comment upon, retweet, and at-reply (@ on Twitter) your industry colleagues’ social media content – the more people see your name (and your intelligent input), the better name recognition you’ll receive
  • When uploading photos in a blog post, include several appropriate keywords to boost the “searchability” of the post
  • Write a short direct message (or create an amusing automatic direct message) welcoming new Twitter followers, mentioning what you bring to the table
  • Ask questions to engage your audience and increase the likelihood of responses
  • Include a “share” button at the bottom of each blog post so readers can share your (hopefully fascinating) posts with the click of a button
  • Provide a subscription button on your blog – if your readers sign up, they’ll be notified via email every time you publish your latest post

Above all, make your content interesting – that’s the absolute BEST way to ensure your brand’s continued growth and influence.