You Do Social Media, but You Don’t Think Social

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Every day I come across marketing agencies, PR firms, and freelancers who offer social media marketing as a service.

Many of them didn’t start out doing anything with social media. Most of the time they began with print or other forms of digital marketing (SEO, web content, blogging etc.)

But recognizing its importance and value to customers, they have now added social media marketing to their arsenal. In some cases (and this is actually more surprising to me), it’s a new agency which claims to be focused almost solely on social media.

But too often, I’m seeing that while these companies may talk a big game, they don’t seem to really understand what social media is all about. Judging based on their social posts, most of them have not done their homework and have not given the medium sufficient preparation or the respect it deserves.

I can tell that a marketing company doesn’t really ‘get it’ when almost every post is either self-promotional or a promotion for a client. What this tells me is the agency is still thinking in terms of traditional media marketing (e.g. TV, print, and radio). They may have made the shift to social, but they have not yet shifted their mindset to one that understands social media.

Social media marketing – and really all of digital marketing – is about providing value. You don’t have a captive audience the way you do in traditional media. There’s a lot of noise you have to compete with for attention. Therefore, you have to earn that attention.

How do you earn it? You earn it by acting like a human being and more like a media company and less like a marketer. You hit your target audience with content that entertains, inspires, or helps. This keeps people coming back for more and primes them to eventually buy what it is you’re selling when you do eventually go in for the ask.

What really makes me laugh (and cringe) is when a company will post a meme or a video explaining how social media is about providing value rather than talking about oneself, and then almost all of the other posts are self-promotional! And people pay them thousands of dollars in monthly retainers?

It annoys me, because I know if I had the resources, I could show ’em how it’s done, but on the other hand I’m happy, because it will make it easier for me to win once I have my own team. 🙂 working-in-starbucks-east-hampton

Here’s what you have to remember. Nobody goes online to see ads. Nobody wants to be sold to.

If they know you, like you, and feel like they’ve received a lot of value from you, they will not necessarily buy from you, but they will be much more likely to want to give you something in return, which could mean a transaction.

However, if you just go in for the ask without first providing value, you’re like the obnoxious guy at the party who does nothing but talk about himself. It’s like asking to marry someone on the first date. You’re like the dude who tries to go all the way before even saying hello.

Now, I get it. Some people genuinely want to try new economy strategies, but their bosses force them into utilizing dinosaur tactics. You feel pressure to show a tangible ROI to your boss or to your clients.

But if you want to win on social, you need to start acting socially. It’s not social to be talking about yourself all day. That’s lame. No one wants to hang out with people like that. You need to behave like an individual and actually contribute to the conversation. In that respect, social media marketing is very counter-intuitive for marketers and brands, but it’s very natural (and fun) when you allow yourself to respect the medium on its own terms.

Social media marketing does not provide as much instant gratification as do other forms of marketing. It takes much longer to start getting results, but if you’re patient and you spend time listening to your audience, take the time to learn about and respect the individual social platforms, and you create good content consistently, you will win in the long-run.

Your hard work and patience will pay off and leave your competition in the dust. But if you try using short-cuts and don’t invest the time and energy that is needed to build and strengthen consumer relationships, you will never get off the ground.

So, don’t just say you do social media. Start thinking and acting like it.

 

 

How to Hack the Instagram Hashtag

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There are many ways to hack Instagram. But if you’re trying to boost engagement and get likes and comments on your posts, learning how to properly use hashtags is essential.

Ironically, while Twitter was the first to popularize the almighty hashtag and is the network we most often associate with hashtags in popular culture, Instagram’s algorithm encourages more hashtag usage than does the algorithm of any other platform, so why not use Instagram hashtags to your advantage?

Mastering the art and science of Instagram hashtags can be tricky. But the key to getting your posts in front of more people, as well as the right people, is making sure your posts show up as Top Posts for your targeted hashtags.

How Top Posts Work

Instagram Top Posts appear as the first 9 images that pop up when you click on a hashtag or enter a tag into Instagram’s search bar. These top posts are what Instagram has decided are the best posts using that hashtag and they are the first ones users see when they look for anything associated with that hashtag. By getting your content to appear in Top Posts, your images will gain more impressions and exposure.

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Images that make it into Top Posts stay at the top longer, and unlike the Most Recent section below it, Top Posts aren’t in chronological order. Rather, they are based on the amount of user engagement or interaction with the post within a finite amount of time.

How to Consistently Make it into Top Posts

I doubt anyone outside of Instagram’s staff actually knows the platform’s algorithm, but I discovered a nice little trick to get more likes on posts through my own experiences of trial and error using Instagram. I did not have a large following (and I still don’t have a super huge following), but I wanted my posts to receive more meaningful engagement and my profile to accrue more targeted followers who would be truly interested in my content. To do that, my posts would have to show up for the right people – the sort of people whom I want to attract.

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Most people think of Instagram as a social media network and that is true, but I realized Instagram (like Twitter) is actually a search engine as well, and a powerful one at that.

Applying what I knew about search engines, I decided it would be better to rank higher i.e. get into Top Posts for narrow, niche hashtags that specifically target the audience with whom I wished to interact. I also wanted to get more exposure on hashtags with a wide enough following to be relevant, but a small enough following so as to minimize competition for the coveted Top Posts section.

I began to research ‘long-tail,’ niche or targeted hashtags that relate to my audience and my business to see how many previous posts each hashtag had. Those with a low enough number of posts to make competition for the top spot low, but a high enough number of posts to get a significant number of eyeballs on my posts were deemed worthy of use.

I now consistently (or at least most of the time) make it into the Top Posts section for hashtags like #businessstrategy, #contentwriter, and #internetbusiness, which is useful to me as a freelance copywriter and marketer. Occasionally, I get into Top Posts for even more popular hashtags such as #copywriting and #contentwriting. I also use more popular hashtags like #marketing, #contentmarketing, and #freelance.

Note: No, I’m not scared that some of you are going to ‘steal’ those hashtags, because I welcome the competition and you will not defeat me. Bring it, #&%$*!  🙂

While these narrow hashtags are the most helpful, I still use broad hashtags when appropriate that are based on specific themes related to the image or general trends. Examples include #summer, #grind, #hustle, #MotivationMonday, and #creative.

I do this because the post will briefly appear at the top of the Most Recent section of some very popular hashtags, which increases the likelihood that the post will be seen and and pick up a few likes quickly after it is posted before it disappears down into the Most Recent section of those popular hashtags. In the short-run, this may attract likes from people outside my target audience, bots, and fake or fickle followers, but I’m cool with that. It’s OK, because these first few likes will tell Instagram that the post is valuable, which will get the post bumped up higher into Top Posts for the narrow hashtags.

Once I’m in the Top Posts section for the targeted hashtags that I was aiming for, I’ll be up there for a while achieving more visibility, more likes for a longer period of time, and new followers who are actually interested in topics related to my brand.

Don’t Underestimate Most Recent: 

While landing in the Top Posts section is far more valuable than being at the top of the Most Recent section, over-indexing for Most Recent on narrow, long-tail, targeted hashtags that relate to your brand is also a smart strategy.

Remaining at the top of the Most Recent section for a long period of time ensures that even when your post has faded away from the Top Post limelight, you can continue to mine that post’s equity. For narrow hashtags, you may stay at the top of the Most Recent section for a especially long time, because the hashtag receives new posts so infrequently. When your content dominates the Most Recent feed for a niche hashtag, this can keep you at the top of mind for the people you wish to target. You may also gain more likes and find yourself back in the Top Posts section now and then.

Furthermore, if you begin to dominate the Most Recent section of a given hashtag, you’ll become the account most associated with that hashtag on Instagram, which can be a tremendous asset to your branding efforts.

Branded Hashtags

Another important strategy, which could very well be the subject of its own blog post, is leveraging branded hashtags.

Branded hashtags are hashtags that relate specifically to your business. Creating a hashtag that is specific to your business, such as one that features the name of your business or one of your campaigns e.g. #madewithchobani (Chobani) or #OfficeHack (Staples), can go a long way toward crafting a brand on Instagram.

Experiment with several branded hashtags and reuse the ones that receive the best results. If one of your branded hashtags starts trending, more attention will be shifted directly to your brand.

Good luck and if you found this post helpful, please follow me on Instagram @zevg1 for more inspiring, useful content related to digital marketing! #followmenow #thanksforreading #GoGetEm

 

Research, Research, Research!

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I’m often asked questions such as these:

“What should I be doing to improve on Facebook or Instagram?

“Is this piece of ad copy good?”

“How do I get more followers?”

“What should the offer be in my search engine advertisements?”

It is often the case that behind these questions is the all-too common blunder of putting tactics before strategy. There is a world of difference between strategy and tactics.

A strategy is an overall plan of action designed to achieve a certain aim. A tactic is a method one implements as part of achieving that aim. In other words, your strategy may be comprised of a variety of tactics that help you reach your goals.

According to diffen.com,

“A strategy is a larger, overall plan that can comprise several tactics, which are smaller, focused, less impactful plans that are part of the overall plan.”

A frequent problem in the world of marketing is a rush headlong into tactics without first fomenting a proper and guided strategy. The problems that can arise when implementing tactics without a strategy already in place could be the subject of a much larger post.

However, here we will focus on the one thing that must be done even before creating a strategy:

Research

Yes, research. I know time is money. There is an insatiable urge to just get it all out there. We want results NOW. But without doing research all your marketing efforts will have been in vain.

According to Hubspot, a good marketing strategy must be built upon specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely goals (SMART). But how do you know your goals meet such criteria? How can one determine one’s goals in the first place?

The answer is research.

Although it doesn’t sound sexy, you must first spend some time doing research before you get started.  You must research such data as, demographics, market trends, and your current clients and customers. This will enable you to set SMART goals, develop accurate buyer personas to target, and figure out how to optimize in order to reach your objectives.

And research is not only something to be done at the beginning. You must research throughout the entirety of every single campaign and optimize accordingly.

The data revolution has brought with it the ability and the need to constantly research our marketing campaigns. Research is required at all stages of a campaign from awareness to consideration to decision.

So, before you worry about what to post on Facebook, first determine if Facebook is even the channel where you should be devoting most of your time and resources. Identify your ideal customers and find out where they hang out online before choosing which social networks on which to focus your efforts.

Before writing a piece of copy or trying to determine its effectiveness, do some research to find out who is your target audience and what are their pain-points, problems, and concerns. Don’t just try to get followers. Get engaged followers who want to interact with your brand. Your research should guide every piece of content you create and where you distribute it. Use research to guide all of your business decisions.

The only way to be successful in the long run is to take the time to do your due diligence and research, research, research. There’s no getting around it. There are no shortcuts.

Once you have done a sufficient amount of research, don’t be afraid to implement with confidence and then research some more.

 

Be Contagious

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Starting from a young age I had a knack for talking about my interests in ways that would get my listeners excited about them as well. Whether it was about a favorite comedian, band, book series, TV show, product, or paper airplanes, my enthusiasm was infectious. It was contagious.

However, it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I would figure out how to turn this quality, which I always perceived as little more than an interesting quirk, into a professional career. Apparently, there is an entire industry based on hyping things up and generating interest. It’s called marketing. Who knew?

Recently, I spoke to several people about my chosen profession – digital marketing – and explained to them the vast amount of changes taking place at a rapid rate in this growing field. I prattled on about how the growth of mobile has created a shift from a linear sales funnel to a sales cycle powered by catching people in “micro moments.” The impact of an increasingly consumer-focused market that forces brands to engage with customers in an ongoing dialogue rather than dominate a one-way conversation. The interconnected nature of search and social and how the data revolution enables brands to get the most for their spend while painstakingly tracking every aspect of their operations down to the most minute detail and optimize accordingly.

When I was finished, my audience (who was not in the marketing field) was not bored, but enrapt. “I never heard someone talk about these things with such a genuine passion,” one person said. It wasn’t only what I said, but how I said it that made the difference.

And then it hit me. If I want prospects to get on board with my vision and if I want clients to be truly invested in our projects, then it’s not enough to be knowledgeable and passionate, but so effing excited about my work that it’s contagious. The strength of my conviction in progressive, relevant, consumer-focused, data-driven online marketing must be contagious enough to spread like a virus.

This applies not only to my field, but to any field. Don’t “sell.” Be genuine. This will be your greatest currency. Stand by your products 100% whether it’s furniture, food, entertainment, plumbing services, or clothing. Demonstrate that you love what you offer and believe in your products or services in a way that your target audience feels they will genuinely benefit and you will not only get customers, but create a tribe of loyal followers.

And once you have a tribe that has caught your disease, the real fun begins, because they will spread it to others. There is a reason it’s called “going viral.” It has long been known that “word of mouth” is the strongest form of marketing. A referral from a trusted friend will always beat  an ad or even an engaging piece of content.

In the olden days before print journalism, TV, or radio, word of mouth was all we had. Later, these forms of traditional media took its place. Now, we have come full circle and technology allows us to steer the conversation and generate word-of mouth marketing through large networks of fans, expanding our reach like never before.

Social media enables you to create a tribe of brand ambassadors who will then spread your message for you and further infect the population. If you’re effective, you’ll create an epidemic.

Don’t keep your enthusiasm quarantined. Hopefully, after reading this you have caught the bug and are ready to be contagious.