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

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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

Social Media Marketing For Socially Conscious Brands

Just returned from the Natural Foods Expo in Baltimore. What a great show! I’ve been attending the Expo West show for the last 5 years or so and have watched it explode until now it is bursting the seams at the Anaheim Convention Center. It looks like Expo East is headed in the same direction!

Lots of interesting sessions and some innovative new products. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be part of the program and talked about my approach to social media – Integrated Digital Branding, in this presentation. Thanks @momcentral for attending and the kudos after the session. A special thank you to the man in the back of the room who yelled out, “this is the clearest presentation of social media I have ever seen!