…is the ultimate teacher of what does and doesn’t work on social media. Our Digital Guide this month shares best practices for effective video, while our Case Study takes a look at what NASA has learned from several years of operating Twitter on behalf of its spacecraft. This month’s Feature explores how and why to set up a custom taxonomy for your social updates. In On Workflow we speak to Chad Berndtson, Senior Manager of Strategic Communications at PNConnect client Palo Alto Networks. Plus we have the latest social media news, curated from PNConnect Weekly Reading.
PNCONNECT — This new offering allows marketers to specifically target designated audiences while keeping individual user information private. The Personas tool includes shorthand categories of audiences, including groups like millennials, college graduates and business decision-makers. Advertisers can target the categories directly from the dashboard — one click takes you into the ad campaign creation tool with the targeting already applied.
Source: Twitter Blog
for Clicks on Their Ads
PNCONNECT — For direct response marketers, Facebook has made it easier to target real ROI. Now, advertisers can opt for a type of ad that they only pay for when someone clicks on the ad’s featured link, rather than liking it, commenting on it, or sharing it. While some advertisers find these social engagements helpful in boosting brand recognition, commerce-focused advertisers will prefer this new alternative, which ensures that their spending is more closely tied to concrete business objectives.
Source: Ad Age
PNCONNECT — This is a nice upgrade and supplement to Twitter’s specialized range of rich attachment cards. The new format makes links shared on Twitter appear similarly to links shared on Facebook. Instead of seeing the actual URL, the stream displays an image, title and the first several words at the link. This means it’s easier for users to preview the contents of a link, and link sharers (including brands) get more space to entice followers to click through. If you’re publishing to a blog or other owned channel, double check that these automatic attachments are appearing correctly on Twitter.
Source: Marketing Land
We've updated Summary Cards! iOS & Android users will start seeing more detail about web content in their timelines. pic.twitter.com/gZv2B6vham
— Twitter (@twitter) July 14, 2015
PNCONNECT — B2B audiences on social networks want information and insight. Help a B2B contact or prospect look smarter or get better at their job, and they’ll always come back for more — including, often, a business relationship. People want to work with smart people who will make them look smarter, yet so much of B2B marketing still focuses on promoting products and services, which is the opposite of what audiences are looking for.
PNCONNECT — It seems unfathomable that a country with an Internet population of close to 350 million can have an online penetration rate of only 19%, but India is poised on the brink of spectacular growth and opportunity. Most of this growth is going to come through mobile access, so if your brand does business in India, you need a solid foundation in mobile to make it work. Social networks will also benefit from this growth.
Zero In On Live Audiences
PNCONNECT — For the “real-time marketing” boom, this tool is a godsend. It both identifies likely-to-trend events in advance and enables one-click advertising in conjunction with these events. While real-time/topical marketing should not make up the bulk of your Twitter strategy, these tools will make topical tactics easier to execute.
Source: Marketing Land
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“Then I … realized I was wrong. Like symbols in Renaissance paintings, Line stickers express a wide, complex, and often bemusing array of ideas — and some are just really messed up, in an awesome way.”
One downside of publishing on social networks is that they offer no native taxonomy or categorization. Blogs allow you to categorize and tag posts for the benefit of both users and publishers; social networks lack any comparable organization scheme. Sure, you can often use hashtags, but that doesn’t create an easily tracked external link to the archive of everything you’ve posted using that hashtag.
However, you can create categorization and tracking behind the scenes. Doing so will help with monitoring your program and evaluating it at regular intervals. Creating a custom taxonomy for your program can offer these benefits:
- Flexibility in format: In most cases, your editorial calendar is the simplest place to manage taxonomy. If you’re using a Google Drive spreadsheet, you can just add columns for different categories and content types, and assign one to each post on every platform.
- Roll-your-own reporting: Each program has unique priorities, with only some covered by your CMS or reporting tool of choice. By tagging posts within the editorial calendar, you can pull data that’s particularly relevant to your program. Some options from current programs we manage include business unit, post type (interview, sales, feature story, etc.), audience segment and more.
- Potential for automation: Some publishing tools (e.g. Spredfast, Percolate) will let you tag and categorize posts within their own systems, which can be a big help with reporting.
The need for a custom taxonomy often surfaces from stakeholder interviews, content audits or other research before a program launch. These insights can then be turned into something actionable on a tactical level for the day-to-day program. The tailored tracking you can get from a custom taxonomy surfaces valuable insights other reporting tools aren’t equipped to support.
I keep reading articles about how you actually become more productive if you spend the first hour of your morning ignoring e-mail. I wish I could break the habit! Typically I’m up and rolling by 5 or 5:30 a.m. with a mug of coffee or an espresso and tearing through e-mails before the rest of the family is up. I find I’m much less stressed if I can assess the day, take care of any challenges that have come in from Europe or Asia overnight, and then be fresh for my daughter when she’s up and before she heads to school. If I sleep a little later and get up with everyone else, they can tell that I’m pins-and-needles worried about what I’m not on top of. I don’t want to convey that.
Form a clear definition of success. That doesn’t mean you get fixated and can’t adjust along the way; it’s just amazing how quickly distractions creep in and teams get sidetracked when there isn’t a clear, proposed outcome. To give a PR-centric example, maybe that outcome isn’t just “coverage” but “what is the headline and story you’d ideally want to see.” From there it’s a lot clearer how to create the best opportunity to achieve that article based on your resources and tools.
My “desk” is wherever I park my laptop — or wherever I’m pounding away on my iPhone. I have a seated desk in my home office (pictured) with a tangle of chargers to one side and a mug of coffee on the other, surrounded by books, media devices and photos of my family. As I write this, however, my desk is a kitchen table at at a temporary apartment in Paris. A few hours from now it may be an armrest at an airport lounge. Go go go, like most in our industry.
Value directness: State goals and expectations, then stick to the plan. When you need to make adjustments, explain why. I’ve had managers who were benevolent dictators and managers who were consensus builders, discussing with stakeholders before making decisions. I’m fine with either. But directness and clarity make them work, and are the quickest ways to zap drama and clear away confusion.
Manage your mood: This is a tough one. But when you’re in a position where others’ productivity and morale can depend on “reading” you, the signals you send matter. It’s essential to know what your mood, tone, and language (verbal and written) are conveying. It can create amazing drama when someone misunderstands a comment that, to you, is innocuous.
Learn the difference between communicating and micromanaging: I have been a remote/home office worker for the better part of a decade, so I had to learn to over-communicate and make myself visible; otherwise I would have a significant disadvantage over colleagues, higher-ups and reports who interact face-to-face at HQ. But too much communicating reeks of micromanaging. Dial it back a bit, don’t respond or prompt responses too quickly, and be visible, but not oppressively so.
Find the fit: Understand how your team members thrive so you can position them to succeed. Know what circumstances and motivations help them produce. Of course, not everything can be a hand-hold, and some people just can’t get it done. A good manager reads all this early on and then guides a way forward.
As we’ve previously noted in Digital Essentials, government entities often find it challenging to excite and engage their followers. But recently, NASA has been a standout: When the New Horizons spacecraft reached Pluto, the news dominated social media. And Twitter was once again charmed by the quirky, human-like musings of a far-distant robot.
NASA first became popular on social media in 2008, when its Phoenix lander was preparing to touch down on Mars. NASA was excited to spread the news that its creation had survived a 422-million-mile journey through space — and needed to communicate that excitement in the 140 characters of a tweet. Veronica McGregor, the head of communications at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, spontaneously decided to tweet as the Phoenix lander in the first person, mostly because “I’m” takes up fewer characters than “The Phoenix lander is.”
When McGregor gave Phoenix a voice, she also gave it a personality: earnest, a bit dorky, and psyched to learn more about Mars. The approach resonated instantly, with the account’s Twitter followers tripling within days. Soon the rest of NASA began following McGregor’s lead, crafting personas that caused followers to create emotional connections with machinery and deepen their passion for space exploration. The NASA rovers and space probes that speak in first person perform far more strongly on Twitter than those that don’t: For instance, the first-person Curiosity rover has nearly 2 million followers; the Mars Spirit and Opportunity rovers’ shared third-person account has roughly 332,000.
Moreover, NASA’s various Twitter accounts often vary in tone and personality, just like the accounts of regular Twitter users. No universal handbook or style guide governs how NASA’s communications teams represent their spacecraft. Phoenix’s hyper-excitement contrasts with the somber, almost poignant signoff Messenger shared before ending its 11-year mission with a crash into the surface of Mercury:
The overall effect is powerful: @NASA is the world’s 104th most popular Twitter account, and the agency has over 11 million Facebook followers and 3.5 million on Instagram.
Wherever you can, lend humanity and earnestness to your social media voice; your followers will respond in kind. Break down barriers between your brand and your followers — after all, that’s what social media has always been intended to do. If you can foster an emotional connection and get followers invested in your brand’s story, loyalty and genuine caring will spring from there.
- Plan to invest more up front. Capture a lot of high-value content at once, rather than delaying the cost through multiple shoots and projects. Many costs are flat regardless of how much video you capture, so this approach is more efficient overall.
- Consider the larger potential value. A video shoot can do more than serve an immediate need. For instance, imagine you’re interviewing subject matter experts for a video on a specific topic. While the cameras are rolling, take advantage of the opportunity to ask about other topics, gathering footage that might be repurposed in additional videos down the line.
- Partner with experienced people. They’ll know what common mistakes and problems to watch out for.
- Create something compelling. Rather than focusing solely on what you want to say, ask yourself: Who do you want to see this video? What would make them want to watch it?
- Plan thoroughly. Regardless of project size, go through a systematic process, including concepting, storyboarding, and setting a production timeline. Bring your video experts into the process early. They can help with concepts and ideas, not just tactics and execution.
- Allow ample time. This is vital to quality assurance, especially in the pre-production stage. Good planning helps avoid reshoots or irrevocable problems with what’s been shot. Along with expected challenges, all kinds of unexpected, time-consuming issues can pop up along the way. For instance, simply downloading raw video can take hours, or even days.
- Think about all distribution possibilities. Will you want to recut your clip for Vine or Instagram? Make sure you’re shooting video that will be easily adapted to any relevant formats. Remember this mantra: It’s easier in pre-production than it is in post.
- Invest in higher production values. Higher quality lends enduring value, makes the video easier to repurpose, and makes your brand look better. It’s the simplest way to signal to viewers that your video is worth their time.
- Capture high-quality audio. Poor audio quality can ruin a video, and it’s generally not possible to fix it after the fact. Also, you may be able to repurpose the audio separately — as a voiceover track or in a podcast, for example.
- Don’t give your video an expiration date. To keep your content evergreen, avoid including unnecessary dates, calendars, or other details that anchor the video to a particular time. For videos featuring company employees, it’s best to include many people, rather than focusing on a single employee who may leave the company in the future.
- Be conscious of brand voice. Voice and character come across through music choices, narration style, the level of humor, and more. Video branding is a process that requires time and a strong vision. One common tactic is to tie distinct visuals or audio cues to your brand in order to create an automatic connection over time.
- Remember: You have about five seconds to offer a compelling reason to keep watching. Humor can often be the key to getting viewers to stick around.
- Consider crafting variations of your video targeted to different audiences. This can involve swapping out everything from actors or keywords to calls to action or music. For instance, compare how AARP and Geico sell insurance to their different customer bases. However, keep your core message in mind and make sure it persists through each version you create.
- Revisit your end goals. Don’t just “make a video,” “convince X to do Y,” or “spread awareness about Z.” In order to measure your results effectively, you have to think about success metrics prior to publication. Consider creating a landing page tailored to your viewers in order to gauge viewers’ interest in learning more.
- Distribute on the platforms your audience uses. For more on uploading videos natively to social networks versus uploading to YouTube, read our previous Feature on the topic.
- Think about the distinct character of each potential distribution channel. Just because you can put a video on Instagram, doesn’t mean you should. It may not be a good fit there. Know why you want your video to be on each platform. Your approach should fit not just a platform’s technical needs, but its tone, too — business-oriented vs. personal and emotional, for instance.
For more information about our team and approach, or to learn how we can help your organization with digital strategy, development and measurement, please visit the PNConnect site.
Chris Thilk wrote this month’s Feature about social program taxonomy. Anthony LaFauce and Chris Edwards in Washington, D.C., created our Guide to video best practices, and Chad Berndtson at Palo Alto Networks took the hot seat for On Workflow. Christopher Barger in Detroit and Chris Thilk in Chicago compiled the PNConnect Weekly Reading stories and insights that appeared in Noteworthy News. Mary Gaulke in Sarasota shared the Case Study on NASA.
Chris Thilk provided our Comic-Con cover and welcome photos. Webtreats uploaded the Case Study background to Flickr, some rights reserved. Some backgrounds courtesy of subtlepatterns.com and thepatternlibrary.com.
Thanks to Jennifer Laker, Jeff Stieler, and Pete Schiebel from the Platforms team for providing design and development support, and to Mary Gaulke, Tom Harris, and Chris Thilk for editorial oversight and proofing.