People Don’t Care About Your Brand

Sometimes I find something when trolling around the internet that strikes me as really, really true. In essence:  People Don’t Care About Your Brand – It’s all about “What have you done for me lately?”.

Check out the slide show below – great stats that highlight that point!

-Maryanne

American Apparel and The Art of the Editorial Calendar

After a seemingly silly mistake, American Apparel posting a shot of the Challenger exploding with the heading #smoke, #clouds on Tumblr, national media decried the stupidity of brands who don’t supervise their social media staff.

 

challenger

The bigger question is…why would any brand be posting something so trivial and unrelated to the brand in the first place? Yes, social media is a conversation with the brand’s consumers, constantly selling is not a good plan. But the brand DOES need to stay on message all the time.

 

That’s why building an editorial calendar is such a great idea. Rather than having a bored intern posting random thoughts just to keep to the schedule of posting on Facebook 3 times per week, what if he or she had a specific goal for the week that related to the brand message?

 

An editorial calendar lays out social media goals and topics week by week, considering holidays, new product launches and category events. It outlines the topics to be covered each week and focuses the conversation by platform. For example, last week during the Independence Day holiday, American Apparel’s calendar might have said:

 

Week Of: June 29- July 5

Theme: 4th of July

Pinterest: Posts pics of picnic/ holiday themed wear from our stock photos

Tumblr: Blog posts on: Made in USA, wearing basics for summer and pics from Pinterest ( linked)

Twitter: Post picnic pics, join in conversations on Made in USA

Facebook: Happy Independence Day graphic, BBQ photos

Note the broad nature of the theme, yet specific message about American Apparel that plays nicely into Independence Day. This keeps the posts on message while allowing for the individual creativity of the social media staff and the opportunity to have conversations with consumers around these themes. Ideally, the annual editorial calendar is included in the marketing plan and updated as needed.

 

Obviously, I did the above example rather quickly, but even this type of rough direction would have prevented the silly #smoke #clouds posts. As for American Apparel’s other problems….I don’t even want to go there!

Stories That Caught My Eye. 6.30.14

I’m a news junkie, marketing geek and sometimes normal person who likes to share. Here’s what I found interesting last week. Share your stories in the comments!

For Econ Majors and Those of us who only really enjoyed “Money and Banking”

But the real story is here in a 1990 paper she work with DH – Waiting for Work – that discusses exactly why the labor force participation rate could be so low

This week’s marketing trend’s to watch

Just fun stuff if  a little geeky

John Green’s World History Part II preview

 

 - Maryanne

 

3 Brand Best Practices In a Natural Disaster

 

As hurricane season starts in Florida and wildfire season continues in the California drought and tornadoes barrel through the Mid West, it is tempting to capitalize on the news event in social media. This is of course what trips up brands on a regular basis.

Social media managers around the world wake up each morning trying to figure out the best way to make their brand relevant that day, putting brands squarely in the middle of the challenge traditional media has struggled with for years- if you’re not a hard news site, what do you talk about when everyone is focused on a natural disaster.

In the food industry, it’s tempting to post, bone warming recipes and tips explaining why your product is just the perfect one to stock up on in the case of an emergency.

Try to restrain yourself.

Instead follow these three tips for posting about your product when everyone is thinking of something else.

  1. Be subtle . Yes, it is correct to let consumers know you are aware of the situation, but not by tying your product into the emergency. Offer your thoughts and/or prayers, but don’t sell.

 

  1. Be Relevant without being pushy. If your product IS one that is typically, emphasis on typically, included in an emergency situation ( canned soup, bottled water, dry foods) offer your audience tips. …but focus on the bigger picture and include your product in an entire list of  emergency products.

 

  1. Enter into the conversation only when invited. It’s tempting to jump into a conversation with the hashtag du jour, but when lives and livelihood are a stake, even a simple, ”be safe” can be misinterpreted. Stay on the safe side and acknowledge rather than drive the conversation.

Does this post capitalize on the current situation? Possibly. It was on my mind this morning as I made my morning posts. Hopefully I’ve shared appropriately. You can let me know.

Maryanne Conlin, CEO of RedRopesDigital likes maintaining relationships especially when they lead to good conversation    and good food.

Content That Connects – Building a Content Creation Strategy

CONTENTI think a lot about content creation. All marketers do. All marketers have always thought about words and images that connect with consumers- whether on a package or on TV or on the side of a horse drawn buggy.

 

But the absolutely ferocious, voracious need for content that brands have in the 21st century is mind- blowing!

Great content drives engagement and ultimately sales.  We need it. We need a lot of it. and in the typical manner, when a need hits the spotlight, brands are rushing willy-nilly to fill that void, sometimes at the expense of strategy and organization.

Let me give an example. Brand A embarks on a website redesign with a need for blog posts, video and some How-To’s or recipes. Brand A reaches out to everyone with a keyboard or camera and some skill in their network – bloggers, interns, employees, etc… and request content. Content of varying quality starts pouring in.

 

The streams of content, much of it time sensitive, gets uploaded to the website, blog, and social media channels haphazardly tagged and barely indexed. Some have typos. Content is written in a variety of different voices…only some of them the brand’s. Those closest to the brand struggle to take off their “sales person hat” in their writing. Very little of the content is repurposed.

 

Let me suggest a smarter way. Content development, like any marketing initiative should have a strategic focus. Take the time to develop a plan and execute it slowly. Great content written by professional content writers with the knowledge of keywords and some HTML goes a long way. With an understanding of the value of backlinks, search, how to edit a video for YouTube, what photos work best on Intsagram and how to use consumer networks to promote a post, great content creators develop end product that can be used in a multitude of ways- on blog posts and Facebook, as pins and tweets and discussed and promoted through brand advocates. Higher quality content, executed flawlessly goes further…less is more.

 

Building a content program that includes all of the various types working together under one theme goes even further. I’ve found the greatest success for my clients working from an editorial calendar to develop video, photo and written content around a theme, then repurposing it in creative and interesting ways across social media network while integrating it into marketing plans.

 

The framework is the key, but not the end all, because speed and timeliness makes a difference too. Editorial calendars in the digital world need to be flexible and strategic opportunities need to be exploited, so while I advocate a framework, I encourage flexibility. A professional content creation program requires a bit of art and a bit of science and a long term goal. Doesn’t everything?

 

professional content creationMaryanne Conlin draws on her years of blogging, posting, tweeting, shooting and editing experience to create great content for her clients and sometimes for herself.

 

Storytelling -Write Like a Fifth Grader

writingThe very best storytellers draw you with evocative language and immediate imagery. But it starts with a simple road map, an outline, a trail…

Intro – say what you are going to say

Body – say it!

Ending – say what you said.

Without this basic framework, as we all know, everything from blog posts to e-books begins to resemble a trail of breadcrumbs already half eaten by a flock of pesky sparrows.  As homework helper in chief though, I have to say, a dose of middle school English has made me a better writer by not only focusing me on those key points, but also by providing a way to take my writing to the next level.

It’s amazing what a rubric can do to improve your storytelling! While I think, as professionals in the business of writing, we all know how to break down a piece into main idea and supporting points. What we, at least I, don’t always do in any systematic way is review for what makes an essay a story – language!

Excerpted directly from a fifth grade rubric:

Sentence variation:  Does the story include a variety of compound sentences, independent clauses, appositive phrases and introductory adverbial and prepositional clauses?

Figurative language: Is there extensive use of similes, metaphors and personifications?

Word choice: Does the story include vivid and lively verbs? Imaginative and unusual adjectives? Too many vague or overused words?

The first time I used this rubric, I must admit, I had to review what exactly some of those words mean . I always get similes and metaphors mixed up; what exactly IS an adverbial clause?  But, the process, of course gets easier and admittedly more fun. And an essay becomes a story.

These days, rather than channeling my inner Irish, I draw on my inner English teacher. Though we prefer to believe otherwise…all the best storytellers do.

headshot newMaryanne Conlin is CEO of RedRopes Digital. Though she prefers to believes she has an the Irish gift of gab, she finds finding and following the rules of effective writing probably has something to do with her writing ability.

The Changing Economics of Produce

PMA High Performence Mgt Conference

Slide from my recent session at The Produce Marketing Association High Performance Management Conference.  I’m still working out the challenges and opportunities from this trend, but digital communication with consumers will play a big role. What do you think?

 

headshot newMaryanne Conlin is an award-winning digital marketing expert and CEO of RedRopes Digital, a consulting firm focused on building strong digital brands. Check back in a few days to access her December 5th presentation at the PMA High Performance Management Conference . Meanwhile, connect with her on Twitter @maryanneconlin.

 

What Home Depot’s Tweet Tells Us About Staffing Social Media

home depot2Once again, a major brand gets in trouble over a tweet. In case you missed it, Home Depot posted an extremely offensive tweet yesterday which they of course then promptly took down and marshaled their PR force to apologize profusely across the media sphere.

Since the tweet was posted by Home Depot’s outside agency, you wonder whether the same people were deployed to apologize as posted the offensive tweet in the first place. It’s really a bizarre world that we live in now where brands pay outside agencies to handle their social media and then have to pay again to field a crisis campaign to apologize for their mistakes.

But, it’s really less a bizarre strategy than it is a result of the short-sighted way that social media is staffed. I wrote here about  lunacy of having interns and lower level employees be responsible for strategically deploying the brand’s message out to millions of consumers every day and in the case of Twitter, to thought leaders in those communities.

In no other part of marketing do we expect  entry level employees to  have the strategic experience to broadcast the brand message without supervision. It’s not fair to the employee and it certainly does very little to help the brand.

headshot newMaryanne Conlin is an award-winning social media expert and CEO of RedRopes Digital, a consulting firm focused on building strong digital brands. You can access her Sept 27 presentation at ExpoEast on Social Media Marketing for Socially Conscious Brands here  and connect with her on Twitter @maryanneconlin

Don’t Let An Intern Handle Your Social Media

internIn the early days of social media, when it was difficult to measure engagement levels and platform analytics were sketchy, it may have made sense to devote the least number of labor dollars on social media. No one really understood this new tool and what role it would eventually play in the marketing mix.

As the medium has evolved, though…management practices haven’t.

I’ve often heard the excuse that interns and lower level marketing folks are “digital natives” and take to the social media more easily. I think we can put that one to rest after almost a decade of social media.

But now, when the Internet is The Leading Influence in consumer purchasing choice… trumping all other sources, including advice from friends and family having perhaps your most important consumer contact handled by your least experienced person doesn’t make a lot of sense. In fact having your social media updating divorced from the brand management function, silo-ed all by itself or worse handled by one junior person who manages the function for a number of brands almost guarantees missed opportunities, garbled messaging and loss of focus.

Instead, let’s think about a different strategy. In our agency, the brand team has social media site updating as part of their account management responsibilities. Immersed in the brand essence, they are fluent communicating the brand message through copy and images to a variety of audiences because they work closely with the client and creative teams to do so in a variety of different forms.

Mid-senior level managers are the only ones with the experience with legal issues that can crop up, wording that works or doesn’t work for the brand and a real understanding of the target market, through the research they analyze and use to develop all of the creative programs for the brand.  More experienced managers are focused. They work on one or maybe two brands, so are immersed in the brand(s)…unlike a social media intern or community manager who may work on 5- 10 brands performing one function of the marketing mix. Mid and senior level managers by stint of years of experience in marketing, can think strategically about posting and responding and creating community in the social space.

So, as we have more mid and senior managers do final edits on copy and review final creative and really write up any sensitive communication that needs to be explained to upper level management, shouldn’t we use those skills to communicate with the most important person in the mix, the consumer?

(And just to put a plug in for the intern – internships are supposed to be about learning from more senior managers. Get your interns involved in helping you do the tasks on your plate so they can learn. Having them take over the entire social media function doesn’t help the brand or the intern.)

(Photo credit http://blog.onthebar.com)

headshot newMaryanne Conlin is CEO of RedRopes Marketing, a consulting firm focused on green and sustainable industries, fresh produce, food, Hispanic marketing and marketing to Moms. You can access her Sept 27 presentation at ExpoEast on Social Media Marketing for Socially Conscious Brands here  Connect with her on Twitter @maryanneconlin

The Art Of The Hashtag for Brands

number

I was reading this morning Mashable’s hilarious post about “Hashtags Gone Wrong”. While these are the most egregious (and hilarious cases) of poor planning, hashtag development doesn’t really get the same forethought as say, headline development, to the great detriment of the brand.

Although I was an early Twitter user, I accidently stumbled upon the first usage of hashtags in 2007 following #sandiegofire and have developed and used them frequently both personally and for brands with which I work. In my experience though, as I’ve found in so much of social media, the thinking that goes into developing hashtags has about as much relevance to strategic branding as taking the lunch order.

Yet another example of how social media tends to be developed around tactics without a thought about strategy in advance. (And we wonder why brands struggle with determining ROI?)

So, let’s discuss hashtags- what they are for and how we can use them successfully.

Hashtags serve two purposes

1)      As a tag or search term. A hashtag inserted into a post on any number of social media platforms becomes a “search term”. Users can “search” the hashtag to find similar posts.

I know, your initial thought is: great, I’ll think of a really unique hashtag and then everyone can find my tweets easily. Uh – magical thinking. The reverse is actually true. Using a hashtag that people are already searching means your tweets are more likely to be seen. Too many brands think that creating a unique hashtag for each promotion – that matches the ad headline, and the POP and the PR campaign is the way to go. Better to develop one hashtag that the brand can use all year and over time becomes associated with the brand.  Savvy brands use popular hashtags started by others to get your brand noticed when tweeps search a popular subject such as #Thanksgiving or #Fashionweek

2)      As a side comment. A hashtag can also be used to express a corollary idea.  This usage probably came about because of the Twitter 144 character limit. For example, the hashtag #fail is generally used instead of writing, “that didn’t work out to well!” or “what was I thinking?”. Using too many hashtags in each post though, just ends up making the post difficult to read and confusing.

To use hashstags effectively managers need to both understand the nuances of the various social media platforms and the brand essence…and be involved with the brand and the platform on a daily basis. Too often hashtags are created by those in the creative department with little input from those working the social media platforms. Community managers too frequently work on multiple brands and have the platform knowledge, but not always be privy to upper level management brand messaging, again missing the mark on truly great hashtags.

Creating great hashtags that speak to the brand’s message while avoiding hijacking therefore seems easy, no? Not really. The devil is in the details…and nuances and understanding the, sometimes perverse mind of each platforms’ users. But, that’s another blog post!

headshot newMaryanne Conlin is CEO of RedRopes Marketing, a consulting firm focused on green and sustainable industries, fresh produce, food, Hispanic marketing and marketing to Moms. See her at ExpoEast Natural Foods Expo in Baltimore, speaking on Social Media for Socially Conscious Brands, September 27, 2013 Connect with her on Twitter @maryanneconlin