Good digital marketing isn’t just outgoing messaging; it’s a dialogue between brands and audiences. This month’s edition of PNConnect Digital Essentials is chock full of good conversation. Our Feature shares advice from LinkedIn executives about shaping brand voice and engaging employees as company advocates. This month’s Digital Guide offers best practices for live-streaming, while our Case Study profiles how the Disney Parks Blog created interactive quizzes to engage fans in a new way. The latest On Workflow spotlights Project Manager and agile “work nomad” Jennifer Laker. We’re also debuting something new: In Conversation Topics, two PNConnectors swap reactions to recent industry news. All this plus stats, the latest news in social media and digital advertising, and more.
demonstrate their skills at the DARPA Robotics Challenge.
to TrueView Ads
“YouTube is tweaking its commercials to be more like interactive infomercials. A month after YouTube added interactive cards to its skippable TrueView ads, retail advertisers can now use those card overlays to include product information, images and links to purchase a product on a brand’s site. They can also use these ads to remarket to people who may have checked out a product on a brand’s site without checking out.”
Source: Ad Age
A general rule of thumb is each extra step between awareness and purchase decreases the chance of a potential customer taking action. By enabling viewers to make a purchase at the moment, YouTube is removing a tremendous amount of friction from the buying process. Brands with consumer-facing products, particularly anything recently in the news, should consider using this feature in video ads.
“Brands like Macy’s, Kate Spade, Cole Haan, Nordstrom and Ethan Allen will soon offer Pinterest posts with buy buttons, and users can search the site based on what products interest them and in what price range. The shoppable pins have been expected for some time, and they are in demand for retailers because of Pinterest’s ability to capture consumer intent… Pinterest will not take a sales cut or charge a fee for the buttons.”
This is another great case of a platform closing the gap between “purchase intent” and “actual purchase.” For many online shoppers, Pinterest sits right at the end of the sales funnel, so the implications are big. Buyable Pins are currently restricted to certain brands, but again, if your business sells retail products, now is the time to start getting ready for a broader rollout by creating or building up your Pinterest presence.
“Instagram’s ads and ad-buying process are becoming more on par with those of its parent company Facebook. For example, by the end of this year a retailer would be able to set up an Instagram ad targeted to its existing customers that includes a link to the retailer’s e-commerce site and run the ad without calling up an Instagram sales rep — just like it would for a Facebook ad.”
Source: Ad Age
Up until now, Instagram has carefully selected its advertisers and screened their promotions; soon, Instagram ads will be available to all businesses. And with a simplified buying process and new targeting tools, the barrier to entry is a lot lower for brands with direct-response strategies or smaller budgets. Just like Facebook advertising, Instagram advertising has potential as a tool for any brand with an ad budget and a compelling call to action.
“To understand more about the science behind the optimal Twitter hashtag for reality TV programs, our team sifted through a half-season’s worth of content: more than 350 hashtags across eight primetime reality shows in the United States from January to July 2014. The pro tips we unpacked from the research are rather straightforward, but the benefits are substantial (and statistically significant).”
Source: Twitter Blog
While Twitter based its research on reality TV, the resulting insights apply to brands, too: Include your brand name or some other key identifier, limit yourself to 15-17 characters (short enough to fit, long enough to convey something meaningful), and, when possible, give people a chance to express an affinity with “team” hashtags. If you’re encouraging others to adopt a hashtag, keep in mind not just what’s handy for your brand but also what’s useful and fun for followers.
Year Over Year
“Total Facebook engagement for the top global brands has surged 43.5% in the last year, Simply Measured reported today in its Facebook 2015 Industry Report that tracks Facebook activity by the Interbrand 100. And the increase has come despite brands making 5% fewer posts in the last three months compared to the same months in 2014.”
Source: Marketing Land
With Facebook constantly tweaking its algorithms and cutting into brands’ reach, top brands have been forced to get smarter about what they post. The decision to cut down on quantity and focus on improving updates’ quality has turned out to be a win for both users and brands: Followers are seeing more engaging content, and brands are still able to get good results on Facebook by investing a bit more thought into their posts.
“At last year’s Grammys, the Twitterverse gushed over Arby’s tweet at Pharrell, asking for the brand’s hat back. Pharrell…took it in stride, but he could have easily sued. And won. … It’s important for brands to remember that just because they are using the same tools as publishers, that doesn’t make them publishers. And they are not granted the same permissions that publishers receive as journalists.”
Real-time marketing can be a fun addition to a program, as long as it’s clever, original, and aligned with content strategy goals. However, the recent fad of brands hijacking celebrity news stories comes with serious legal risk. Skip borrowing a celebrity’s popularity and focus on building your own instead.
— Jobsite UK (@JobsiteUK) March 25, 2015
“Delta collected every last internet meme and stuffed them all into its latest in-flight safety video. The video, which has climbed to 1.9 million views on YouTube (and 200,000 in the time it took to write this article), is stuffed with internet goodness. Everything from Overly Attached Girlfriend to Screaming Goat to Dramatic Chipmunk to Annoying Orange to Evolution of Dance to Harlem Shake to Coke Mentos to the Will It Blend Guy and a whole lot more is crammed into the 6 minute video.”
Source: Marketing Land
An airline safety video is an unlikely viral hit, but Delta used this mandatory protocol as an opportunity to win over audiences. The internet community — which, after all, is the same as the offline community — loves in-jokes and generally reacts positively when a company can let down its hair, as long as the contribution is informed and authentic. As always, moderation is key, but a bit of irreverence and inclusiveness can do wonders for a brand, especially if it has a reputation for being stuffy or aloof.
When an executive posts personal thoughts and insights on social media, it can have a powerful effect — especially when it’s genuine. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner noted that ghostwriting is obvious to readers and can undermine your message. Executives (and companies, for that matter) need to use their own voice — they can’t allow others to define their story. Activating employee voices is key as well.
The discussion touched on what to write about as well. Weiner recommended focusing on topics where (1) the subject matter means something to you, and (2) you can add something valuable to the conversation.
Leaders need to feel comfortable saying externally what they’re saying internally. It may seem counter-intuitive, but transparency is key to controlling a story. Simply put, when leaders don’t frame their company’s key issues themselves, others will.
An effective routine is also important. Weiner writes a post every other weekend, early in the morning, before his kids wake up. Most posts are on topics he’s passionate about, and that helps the posts write themselves. Today, he writes and edits a first draft of each post in as little as 20 minutes.
With so much noise in the social media space — including on LinkedIn’s own publishing channel — it’s important for brand and individual publishers to start conversations, rather than simply broadcast their own messages.
Roth shared several useful recommendations:
- 1. Do something unexpected.
2. Be quasi-controversial (not bland)
3. Tie into current/relevant external conversations (leverage context).
4. Bring a unique and unexpected perspective.
5. Scrap the official message (see Points 1-4).
6. Find a niche. Be a boutique.
and LinkedIn Executive Editor Dan Roth
on Different Channels
Weiner and Dan Roth, LinkedIn’s executive editor, discussed lessons learned from the announcement of LinkedIn’s recent acquisition of lynda.com. In conjunction with a corporate blog post targeted to users and a press release targeted to investors, Weiner and lynda.com’s co-founder, Lynda Weinman, both published corresponding executive posts to LinkedIn. Between these posts and press coverage in mass and niche media outlets, the team spread the news far beyond the reach of the corporate blog or press release.
Including the executive LinkedIn posts in the core announcement gave journalists an important valuable resource. In fact, press coverage quoted these posts more than any other source. Publishing central, high-profile statements saved executives’ time, ensured the quotes were on-message, and extended the humanized voice of both leaders.
— LinkedIn executive editor Dan Roth
According to Roth, a former Fortune writer, reporters are likely to shut out corporate pitches and look directly to employees and users. They want to get the real story, not the official version.
Roth noted four key questions to keep in mind when identifying potential employee thought leaders:
- 1. Are they already speaking externally (officially or unofficially)?
2. Are they experts on a particular topic?
3. Are they active content creators (officially or unofficially)?
4. Do they have significant existing reach and profile views?
Weiner underscored the point that the authenticity, vision, and humanity that comes from employees publishing content almost always resonates more than official comments. That’s why encouraging employees to share and write on their own is such a valuable element of a brand publishing program.
The tools that I find most valuable allow me to collaborate with co-workers and clients efficiently and in real time:
- Slack – For culture-building and immediate feedback/collaboration.
- Google Docs – Real-time collaboration in documents, spreadsheets, etc.
- Adium – IM/chat aggregation (although Slack has Direct Message capability).
- Task Paper – For personal note taking and task management. I set up each day separately in Task Paper and then create daily to-do’s from there. I’ve also personalized the Bullet Journal system as a way to keep notes and manage tasks in a lightweight, simple format.
- Spotify – A girl needs her jams! I also like to lurk and see what my coworkers and friends are jamming out to. Disclaimer: If you choose to follow me, remember this is a judgment-free zone.
I’m kind of a work nomad, which I’m pretty proud of, because I can work from anywhere as long as I have an outlet and WiFi.
At our Winter Haven office we have an open office plan and are dog-friendly. So, I work from a long table with the rest of the Platforms Team and sometimes both mine and my co-workers’ dogs. This setup lends itself to collaboration, communication, and the occasional office prank. Plus, dogs remind you to keep things in perspective and be happy with the simple things, which can be a lifesaver on stressful days.
At home I work from my dining room table or our home office, depending on how pretty the view is or how vocal my dog, She-ra, is being on any given day. I sit half of the day and stand the other half.
- Send an agenda. If you don’t have one, you’re not “meeting-ready” yet.
- While making the agenda, ask yourself, is this something that can be handled via email? If so, try that first.
- Ask attendees for their availability prior to sending an invite. I feel it’s presumptuous to send the invite first, and it sends the message that you’re not respecting attendees’ time. Asking first saves you time too, because you don’t have to re-coordinate timing when your guests inevitably have scheduling conflicts.
- Take notes, and after the meeting, send a recap with clear action items and next steps.
During our most recent process review, our team expressed that they were having issues with too many calls and not enough time for actual work. We consolidated calls to Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and carved out explicit time for work on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which has proven to be quite effective. We still take calls on Tuesdays and Thursdays when we need to. However, this has made us more productive and has cut down on time lost starting and stopping work between calls.
Definitely what I call “The Kickoff First Date.” Let’s face it, conference calls are awkward. The first call with the whole team can be really, really awkward, especially if you haven’t had the chance to meet face-to-face. I’m all about breaking the ice by doing a Meet the Teams portion on kickoffs, especially ones where we are working remotely with the client. We introduce ourselves and share where we are located, what our role is, and a fun fact. It helps us remember that we are all people first and not just voices on the other end of the line. We get to learn some pretty great things about our clients and each other and it builds a healthy rapport.
Honestly, I’m still working on this. However I try to stick to the following:
- When I’m interacting with someone, I give them my full attention, and I don’t check my phone while in their company.
- I rarely work on the weekends.
- On days when I take PTO, I arrange for support/coverage from our amazing project leads and my direct report so I can fully unplug.
- I eat dinner every night with my partner-in-crime, albeit sometimes a little late.
- Don’t try to walk your dog and check work emails concurrently, because you will butt-dial a co-worker and they will hear your encouraging words meant for your pooch. (Thank you to the lovely Crystal Cooper from our Atlanta office for handling this gracefully!)
At the end of each day, I review what calls I have the next day and note them in Task Paper under “Calls.” Then I list the agendas and recaps that need to be created and sent under “Emails.” In the morning, I review the list of emails that need to go out before noon and new emails that have come in overnight. I prioritize my tasks in Task Paper, and if there’s time before my first call, I check a few of my favorite sites: The Digital Project Manager, Every Day DPM, Kickass PM or A Girl’s Guide to Project Management. In particular, I try to read something new on Hacker News every few days. Then I go ask a developer or designer all about it.
This team is great about addressing process problems. We have a three-step approach:
- Identification: We have weekly stand-ups with the group as a whole, regular regroups with project leads, and other opportunities to step back and review workflow.
- Analyze: Our team puts a high value on efficiency. We’re often early adopters of new technology, and our developers have the skills to adapt many of our current workflow tools to our needs, so blockages are voiced quickly and the team brainstorms together on ways to break through.
- Remedy: With open minds and a waste-no-time attitude, the team works quickly to obtain new info on a solution ASAP. We weigh pros and cons together and implement the solution.
We are lucky to have some amazing clients who do some of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. Right now we’re working on some pretty great stuff with The Pioneer Woman. Ree is her brand. She knows exactly what she wants (while still remaining open to new ideas) and who her users are. She even geeks out with us on some of the more technical aspects of the project. It’s a unique and rewarding experience to work with a client who lives and creates her own content, tirelessly works to exceed users’ expectations, and views incoming project communication as “Christmas gifts.” I mean hello! I get to work with gifted and passionate developers, designers, and clients. What more could a project manager ask for?
Importance of Voice
But let’s get to the most important question of all: do brands have a place in any of this? As an official Millennial™, I usually find it condescending and try-hardy when brands start using emoji, like with that bizarre racist tweet that got Clorox in trouble.
It always comes down to “brand voice” for me. So if using emojis and slang verbiage (saying your all-night diner is “on fleek” is, apparently, on fleek) fits in with the image you A) have or B) want to have, then it can make sense. It’s not like flipping a switch, though. You can’t go from “serious marketing” to “lulz with u 2nite at the hizzy” voice overnight. You need to evaluate the transition throughout the process to make sure you’re actually engaging more people and not turning them off.
I’m with you on organic brand voice being the most critical factor. As you referenced, Denny’s has now spent years assimilating to youth-driven internet culture, committing to esoteric memes and weird in-jokes with the best of them. (Although, surprisingly, they rarely use actual emoji.) And it’s paid off: Many followers have stopped thinking of Denny’s social media accounts as brand agents and categorize them more as co-conspirators who are also super passionate about breakfast food. There’s a certain power in that for the brand that can pull it off.
Followers don’t come much more engaged than Disney fans. Posts from the Disney Parks Blog team, a Voce Communications client, tend to spur lively discussions in comment threads, on social media, and across fan sites. The Disney team and Voce are always looking for new opportunities to help fans share their passion, and their most recent addition — a trivia quiz module — is already a big hit.
Rather than shoehorning an off-the-shelf quiz platform into the blog experience, Voce’s in-house user experience, design, and development team built a custom quiz module to integrate directly with WordPress, the blog’s content management system. With this approach, the team could match the module’s look to the blog aesthetic and include interesting photos and artwork, essential Disney Parks hallmarks. Behind the scenes, the integration made it simple for editors to create and publish new quizzes.
Critically, the team built the module with easy sharing in mind, making it simple for readers to post the score on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, challenging their friends to visit the blog and try the quiz themselves. The team included simple embed code as well so that fans could post quizzes on their own blogs.
Since the quiz module’s launch, readers have tested their knowledge of Critter Country, Splash Mountain, Star Tours – The Adventure Continues, Tomorrowland, and more. After the the first seven quizzes, close to 50,000 readers had taken up a challenge and proven their fandom. They can look forward to many more, covering attractions, seasonal park events, park food, parks history, and all things Disney.
From the outset, the team built the module with the specific needs of two user groups in mind. First, they tailored the quiz experience to what resonates most with Disney Parks fans: actively participating with the parks, showing their knowledge, learning something new, and most of all, having fun. Second, they built the module admin to plug easily into the blog editors’ content creation and publication workflow.
The quiz results give readers a compelling reason to share content with their own online network, which will help grow the Disney Parks Blog audience. The new platform will serve Disney especially well when promoting special events and celebrating key milestones.
Both apps are newcomers, and both have seen rapid adoption among brand publishers who are eager to stay on the cutting edge of social media. But live-streaming itself is hardly new. The now-defunct Justin.tv made a big splash in 2007 by allowing anyone to stream live video to individual channels on its site, and YouTube has long allowed users to set up live broadcasts. The critical addition from Meerkat and Periscope is painless live-streaming on mobile devices.
Still, we can look to the longer history of online live-streaming to define some best practices. Whether or not Meerkat and Periscope stick around, these tried-and-true tactics will prove useful whenever you’re considering live-streaming.
- Know your copyright law and other applicable restrictions: Don’t rebroadcast someone else’s video, and know the rules for video and pictures at an event. Simply put, make sure you have the right to broadcast whatever is appearing in your stream — events, logos, people, and anything else.
- Have a plan: Since everything happens live, make sure you know what you want to shoot before you start streaming. Like attacking a Death Star, you only get one shot. While it’s fine — even expected — to be a little rough around the edges, you don’t want major missteps.
- Define your audience: Set out to meet the needs of a specific audience, and make sure they’ll find your content compelling enough to watch. Live-streaming is a niche area of social media right now, so it’s okay to target a niche audience if the content is a natural fit.
- Promote, promote, promote: For bigger events especially, such as Q&As, and major news announcements, make sure people know when you’ll be broadcasting so they’ll actually tune in. Both Meerkat and Periscope allow you to set upcoming events that show you’ll be broadcasting at a certain time. Make sure you leverage other networks for publicity, too.
- Keep it professional: Again, while there’s certainly room for things to look a bit less polished, ensure the person shooting the video has a good handle on the basics, like how to frame a shot.
- Sync to existing accounts: Both Meerkat and Periscope connect to Twitter, and Meerkat talks to Facebook, too. In addition to promoting individual events, make sure you’re also encouraging users to follow your Periscope or Meerkat account so they’re notified and in place for future events.
- Engage with the audience: Engagement can be tricky, since the person shooting the video may also be responding to viewers. Still, when possible, take the time to answer questions and interact with viewers.
- Create a strong call-to-action: When the stream starts, make sure the promotional updates sell the video effectively, making a good case for why someone should bother watching. You need to convince followers that your video is so good that they should drop whatever they’re doing and immediately tune in.
- Gather available metrics: Metrics for both Meerkat and Periscope are still fairly sparse. Familiarize yourself with them in advance so you can set expectations and have a plan for gathering the data you need.
- Establish clear goals: What do you want to achieve through your live-stream? Are you simply targeting a certain number of viewers, or are you hoping for some other next action? Make sure you define the target end result clearly at the start of the process and keep it in mind throughout.
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.
Andy Stoltzfus in San Francisco wrote this month’s Feature about LinkedIn CommsConnect. Chris Thilk in Chicago created our Guide to live-streaming and Jennifer Laker in Winter Haven stepped up for On Workflow. Stephanie Pham and Mark Avera in Atlanta contributed stories and insights for the Social Networking Stats section, while Daniel Gahagan in Winter Haven provided the latest stats. Mary Gaulke in Sarasota, Erik Sebellin-Ross in San Francisco, and Christopher Barger in Detroit compiled stories and insights for Noteworthy News and Advertising Trends. Chris Thilk and Mary Gaulke took on Conversation Topics, and Sean Lenehan in San Francisco shared our Case Study on the Disney Parks Blog.
Our cover and welcome photos are courtesy of DARPA, and all photos from LinkedIn CommsConnect are courtesy of LinkedIn. Josh Hallett 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.