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[ebook] Addressing Facebook Zero: a new era for Facebook marketing

Addressing Facebook Zero

Over the last couple of months there has been an increasing sense of frustration and, recently, desperation with Facebook as a marketing channel. It’s long been understood by Page administrators that they could expect to reach a maximum of only 16% of their fans with any given status update. But Facebook threw the cat among the pigeons in December 2013 when it confirmed a “leaked” update to the newsfeed algorithm resulting in that figure falling dramatically to between 3% and 6%.

In the last couple of weeks, rumours have started to circulate that a further update will reduce organic reach still further to just 1% to 2% in the very near future.

Facebook Zero, the point where organic reach is at, or very close to nil, is imminent.

This has spawned a million and one blog posts in the last couple of months with titles such as ‘9 Ways to Game the Facebook News Feed’ and ’15 Free Facebook Marketing Tips’ that promise much but deliver very little. So rather than simply adding my own perspective, I decided to ask a number of highly respected Facebook marketers and community managers within my network for their opinions on the future of Facebook marketing. I also asked them to share their own experiences and thoughts on tackling dwindling organic reach.

The result is the ebook you see before you.

Addressing Facebook Zero is available on a number of platforms:

Addressing Facebook Zero contains varied viewpoints, perhaps illustrating that there is no simple answer. There is advice on advertising, content generation, analytics and community management, from those advanced in their use of the network on both sides of the Atlantic. Each contributor has provided a unique and valuable outlook, the combination of which makes fascinating reading. I recommend you connect with each of them.

Many thanks to Brian Carter, Emeric Ernoult, Danny Whatmough, Eb Adeyeri, Luke Williams and Alex Pearmain for their input.

The days of free Facebook marketing are over. Facebook Zero, a term coined by Social@Ogilvy, is a reality.

I hope this ebook helps you to make effective long-term decisions about content strategy, audience targeting and advertising strategy to make the most of Facebook going forward.

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Posted by Paul Sutton

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April Fool’s and the White Noise of Brand Marketing

Domino's edibox

Just in case you weren’t aware, yesterday was April Fool’s. A day for all manner of utterly hilarious japes and pranks (cling film over the toilet bowl, anyone?) when anarchy is not only allowed but actively encouraged.

In such an environment, brands come out to play. And boy, did brands come out to play!

April 1st 2014 saw an unprecedented number of brands getting in on the pranking act. Everyone from Tetley (biscuit-flavoured tea) to Specsavers (the Mona Lisa wore contacts) to Vegemite (new energy drink) to Lego (delivery by turtle) to Amazon (Kindle cover with the smell of old books) to Thorpe Park (dogs allowed to ride rollercoasters) was at it. And the list goes on and on and on and on.

In fact, Domino’s was so proud of its edible box (pictured above), it posted it no less than four times on its Facebook Page. It may have been well-executed, but four?! Is that not overkill?

White Noise

The issue I have with all of this good-natured japery is that there was so much of it that it all became a bit tiresome. The fun was taken out of it by yet another brand announcing a ‘hilarious’ new product variant or yet another media title posting a fake story. I mean really The Sun, the Queen fracking for gas? Jeesh.

fracking

The whole thing reminded me of #RoyalBaby, when everyone wanted a piece of the real-time marketing action. At the time I said that the reason so many brands attracted criticism was twofold: because everyone tried to ride the same topical wave, and because creative executions were lazy. For me, the same largely applies to April Fool’s.

I’ve seen very little that was genuinely inventive or clever from yesterday. It was all just a bit obvious. And real-time marketing it is not.

Is this fair criticism? Or am I just lacking a sense of humour?

Well, for balance, here are a couple of executions that I genuinely did like. Both of them work because although they’re mildly ridiculous, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that they could actually be real things. They’re just the right side of unbelievable.

Marmite’s Doughmites was executed superbly. Did they actually make these? If you follow the brand, you’ll know they may well have done or may well do in future!

doughmites

And American beer brand Samuel Adams’ helium-carbonated beer is just outright funny.

Thoughts?

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Posted by Paul Sutton

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Recommended Reading: Spin Sucks by Gini Dietrich

Spin Sucks book

With such an overt emphasis on digital, Spin Sucks is a book that will scare the living bejesus out of some in the PR industry. And believe me, that’s a very good thing.

In the book’s opening salvo, Gini Dietrich says: “Officially, the PR industry has been around since 1929, and it has remained pretty much the same for more than 70 years. The digital web has forever changed the way we communicate. It’s changed the way we all do business. And it has forever changed the way we, the PR professionals, perform our jobs.”

Reading this book will be a wake-up call for many communications professionals, and therein lies its massive inherent value. It’s a book that everyone in this industry should read.

The Future of PR

‘Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age’ was borne from the number one PR blog of the same name, which is one of only a small handful I’ve stayed loyal to over the last five years. So I was pretty fired up about getting stuck into its pages. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Having finished it in double-quick time, the lasting impression I have is that even if you’re still clinging to the last vestiges of media relations as being the fulcrum of PR because you’re too scared or intimidated to fully embrace digital, you will emerge from reading this book with a new view on the communications industry and in no doubt whatsoever about how you need to change your outlook.

Spin Sucks is an education in itself for those who are struggling to fully adapt to the worlds of digital marketing, SEO, content marketing and social media. It presents a clear and comprehensive guide to storytelling and genuine relationship building and, as such, is equally as valid to students as it is to seasoned PR professionals.

Storytelling

One thing Gini Dietrich could never be accused of is being preachy. If you want to learn about black hat SEO and keyword stuffing, creating content for the web, content optimisation, dealing with trolls and online reputation management, these and more are explained in Spin Sucks in Gini’s normal conversational and chatty tone. And everything is illustrated with real-life, personal stories that draw you in and gain your trust. The result is a book that’s stupidly easy to read and understand, while being incredibly educational.

What I particularly like about Spin Sucks is that Gini outlines practical advice to achieve the things she advocates. There are snappy, actionable guides to building lasting beneficial relationships with bloggers, creating an online crisis plan, adapting the news release into something that works for the web, and many other activities.

What Gini has done superbly well with this book is to illustrate two of the key tenets of contemporary PR: the art of storytelling and the benefit of creating meaningful relationships.

In the book itself there are so many stories it feels almost like reading a personal notebook rather than a business book. I suspect this comes from having written the Spin Sucks blog for so long. The storytelling within the pages is exemplary and is a lesson to all communications professionals on how to create meaningful content that resonates with the reader.

Relationship Building

It’s been noted many times before by Gini’s army of fans that she’s an expert at making each individual feel special. And the way Spin Sucks has been launched has been in itself an incredible lesson in the power of relationship building from the master.

A few weeks back, Gini set about establishing a private community of ‘ambassadors’, collated from readers of the Spin Sucks blog. She had more than 800 applicants, in itself a glowing tribute to her ability to generate a loyal following.

After selecting a hundred or so, we were invited to a private Facebook group, sent a pre-production digital copy of the book and kept in regular contact as the launch approached. The group was whipped into a frenzy to the point where, on launch date (this past Saturday), ambassadors were posting reviews and tweeting like a bunch of crazies within hours!

What this highlights to me is that Gini’s advice in Spin Sucks really does work. This is not a book of theory; it’s a practical guide to digital communications from one of the world’s leading experts. If the author puts into practice the advice in her new book herself to launch it, you know that advice is going to be good.

Audience

For balance, my one criticism of Spin Sucks is that for those of us more seasoned in the ways of social communications and digital marketing, the content within the book isn’t for the most part new or something we can (necessarily) learn from.

But Spin Sucks is written “for business leaders who need to better understand how the industry is changing and what to expect from PR professionals”, rather than those hardened to online communications, so I’m not sure you can really count that as a criticism anyway. Besides which, even to the likes of myself, Spin Sucks is a fantastic reference book that I really enjoyed reading.

In closing, my simple advice is to follow this link to Amazon, right this minute before you forget, and get yourself a copy of ‘Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age’.

If you’re relatively new to PR, it’s a fantastic guide to how to develop your career. If you’ve a little more experience, you’ll be able to learn a lot from Gini Dietrich. And if you’re senior or a business leader, Spin Sucks is a book that could move your company on leaps and bounds.

[Special Offer: if you buy a copy (or copies) of Spin Sucks before Saturday 5th April and email Gini a copy of your receipt, she'll send you $200 worth of free webinars. I told you she was good...]

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Posted by Paul Sutton

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10 Steps to Nailing a Killer Career in PR

public relations

PR is changing. Gone (for the most part) are the days of endless media relations and measurement using AVEs. So far, so obvious.

And so whether you’ve been in the industry for five years or you’re looking for your first role, you need to adapt your skill set and the way you position yourself if you want to forge a successful, long-term career in the industry. When I recruit new people, there are certain things I look for that go way beyond education or previous experience or even attitude. Those things are still important, but they’re balanced by less ‘obvious’ factors.

I was interested in whether my own recruitment preferences are reflected elsewhere. So I asked a friend of mine, Steve Ward from CloudNine Social & Digital Media Talent, what he’s commonly asked for by PR agencies. Below are our combined thoughts on what you must do if you want to be successful in the ‘new world of PR’.

PAUL:

Learn the Basics of SEO and Mobile

The worlds of PR, SEO and digital marketing are colliding more and more with every passing week. Which means that the role of a PR consultant is only going to become increasingly digital in the future. At the moment you can just about get by in PR without understanding SEO or the impact of mobile, but it won’t be like that for much longer. Make an effort to get to grips with how Google works and to understand how to optimise content for the web and for mobile, and you’ll stand out from those who don’t.

Get on Twitter

The news breaks on Twitter. Fact. If you’re still getting your news fix from the TV or (lord forbid) the newspapers, you’re way behind the curve. To be really successful in PR you need more than a simple working knowledge of ‘how to tweet’. If I’m going to hire you I want to be sure that you know how to use Twitter to track topics, brands, conversations and influential people. I want to see that you know how to build a network. And if you’ve already got an engaged network of industry professionals, journalists and bloggers, you’ve got a head start on those who haven’t.

Read, Read, Read

The worlds of PR and social communications move very fast. Developments and campaigns come and go in the blink of an eye, and the only way to keep up with them is to be an avid reader by subscribing to blogs and news sites. If I ask you what your favourite story is from the last couple of weeks and you either can’t tell me or you recite back the Oreo Super Bowl tweet from 2013, I’m not going to be impressed. Although, not as unimpressed as if you don’t even know what the Oreo Super Bowl tweet was…

Get Up-to-Date on your Tech

Given that PR is evolving and social media moves so fast, you have to enable your career as best you can. The good news is that there are plenty of technological solutions to the problems you’re facing in the form of online and mobile apps. For example, feedly is a brilliant RSS reader for blogs; zite and flipboard deliver the latest news straight to your mobile; current.ly tracks trending conversations on Twitter. But there’s other tech you may need to know about in PR. Self-publishing tools such as WordPress, Mynewsdesk and Releas’d (for example) are becoming the way PR is done, so at least being aware of them and what they can do is important.

Write a Blog

When I interview someone and they’ve never written or contributed to a blog, I die a little inside. Blogging illustrates to a potential employer not only that you can write, but also that you can have an opinion on something. It can help to illustrate each of my previous four points: you understand the basics of the web, you can use Twitter to promote yourself, you read enough to be able to write on topical matters, and that you use tech. It can also help you to understand the mindset of the blogosphere, which is something that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Yes it’s challenging, and yes it’s time consuming, and yes it does mean you have to spend your own time reading and researching and writing and tweeting. But running a blog speaks volumes about your attitude and desire to have a killer career in PR.

STEVE:

Research the Employer Well

It’s important to understand the company you are applying to and their style of communication and sector differentials. Mirror their style in your own communications, covering letter and approach. And be sure to be aware of their clients, work, blogs, the type of output they are responsible for and how they measure success. Businesses appreciate greatly the time and attention given to research and knowledge of them.

Connect and Integrate

The journey of applying for a role in the current media age is one the goes beyond the application letter, CV and interview. Good practice is to engage with the company on social media and through their blog, thus demonstrating an interest and relevance to their company. As part of the research process, this helps you to gain a better understanding of who it is you are applying to.

Use LinkedIn Effectively

Despite its many drawbacks, LinkedIn is still the primary zone for a professional profile online. Use it well to demonstrate the depth of your expertise, your experience and the potency of your connections in the industry. It’s a place where you can attach presentations and documents to emphasise your work, projects and skills. Make sure you are a member of groups which are essential to your profession, and demonstrate your integration and learning in the industry goings-on.

Stand Out

Wow. Here’s one. If you are going to be an effective PR professional you need to have something of the X Factor. That doesn’t mean ranting on Twitter like ‘actual’ X Factor winner James Arthur – that’s not really the X Factor! It’s about how prominent, creative and inventive you can be to say: “I’m the one”. It’s something to take a lot of care about: are you on YouTube? Are you a mixer, mover and shaker? Do you make people turn heads with your content, opinion and your personality in online communications? Do you ignite conversation? Stand out PRs in my experience have that X Factor without the exhibitionism (which is very different). You draw people to you, not push them away from you.

Clear and Concise Communication

Writing is a heck of a skill. Make sure your communications in applying for a role are potent, concise and to the point. Demonstrate the quality and efficiency of your writing from point one in the way you write your CV and covering letter. Your CV should be well thought out in content, emphasis and prioritisation of information. The font you use matters and the layout too. And in a covering note, keep it sharp, short and to the point. Don’t waffle about things that make no difference in the decision process; point directly to the redeeming reasons for applying and why you are suited. It’s often your first impression. It’s your press release to your forthcoming employer. Make it count.

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Posted by Paul Sutton

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Argos Shows Why Personality Goes a Long Way in Social Media

Argos Shows Why Personality Goes a Long Way in Social Media

Only a couple of weeks ago I wrote about how Domino’s missed a great opportunity for some social media fun and kudos by failing to react with personality and humour to a troll. Today, I’m very happy to present the exact opposite; a wonderful example of what I wrote about in that Domino’s post.

Argos (of all brands) got Twitter spot on yesterday when responding to a customer asking when they would be getting the PlayStation 4 console back in stock in street slang.

It’s a fabulous example of responsive, ‘human’ customer service in action, and reminded me of the praise O2 was getting a year or two back for a very similar response.

O2 Twitter Slang ResponseBoth of these exchanges gained huge praise and much respect from the online community. They created fantastic PR for the companies in question. And they’re shining examples of how to do social media customer service the right way.

There’s a fine line in judging when and where to respond with a bit of humour and humanity and when to play it straight. It’s something I’ve written about before. But used correctly, this approach is extremely powerful. As well as diffusing situations it gains widespread recognition. Kudos, Argos!

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Posted by Paul Sutton

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Paddy Power’s Shock Tactic Breaks an Unwritten Rule

I’m a huge fan of Paddy Power’s marketing strategy. Its must-follow Facebook and Twitter profiles are packed full of great examples of eye-catching, topical and irreverent humour that give it fantastic reach across social media, and it’s become well-known for attention-grabbing PR stunts.

In the world of Paddy Power, everyone’s fair game for a bit of gentle teasing and, sometimes, not-so-gentle scorn.

But the company’s latest ad has provoked outrage by offering ‘money back if [Oscar Pistorious] walks’ with a not-guilty verdict from his murder trial.

Oscar-744x1024It’s difficult to even know where to start with this one.

Are victims of tragic violence, like Pistorious’ former girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, fair game for unashamed publicity stunts? Is it out of order to use a pun like ‘if he walks’ when applied to a double amputee?

After the new ad appeared yesterday morning, promoted on Paddy Power’s blog and spuriously timed to coincide with the Oscars, it caused an immediate storm of contempt and anger on Twitter. The Advertising Standards Authority has reportedly received numerous complaints from both anti-domestic violence campaigners and from disabled people’s rights groups demanding the ad be withdrawn.

And while I’m not easily offended, even I drew breath when I saw this on Twitter. To the point where I thought it was probably a wind up. There’s a line irreverent brands should not cross, but Paddy Power’s flown a long way past it with this. As Mark Perkins said on Twitter of the stunt: “A PR low. Paddy Power is scraping a barrel no one else would touch.” Quite.

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Posted by Paul Sutton

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If You’re Going to Feed the Troll, Ensure You Own the Troll!

internet trollsPizza chain Domino’s has been all over the blogs and the news sites in the last few days for the way it handled a particularly insistent Twitter troll. And much of the commentary has pronounced how playing the troll with a very straight bat was a great strategy.

I completely disagree. For me, this was both naïve and a missed opportunity.

Domino’s responses to what was obviously someone have a bit of fun fell in the chasm between two camps; not responding at all, and responding playfully with wit and intelligence. They made what is a fun, consumer-facing fast food brand appear starchy and corporate.

As you can see, @Dominos_UK responded to the troll no less than four times simply stating that he should contact the chain’s customer services. One question: why?!

Dominos Twitter Troll

‘Don’t feed the troll’ is a common and widely understood refrain, and looking at the way the guy in question continually baits brands and celebrities, the best course of action for most brands would simply be to ignore him.

But there are some brands who can legitimately engage in this sort of humorous stuff and get away with it. For me, if you are going to respond to trolls, then do it with personality, humour and style. Singer James Blunt is perhaps the (unexpected) master at doing this, actively searching out people slating him on Twitter and firing off quick-witted put downs in the manner of Jimmy Carr destroying hecklers on stage (see video below).

If you’re doing that, don’t starve the troll. OWN the troll.

The initial tweet in this instance was obviously a joke (I’m just guessing here, but I don’t think the guy REALLY burned his penis while screwing a pizza…). And so Domino’s could and, to my mind, should have taken the James Blunt approach. Having decided to feed the troll (Domino’s is, after all, in the fast food business), it could have struck up some great banter. It could have taken the Sainsbury’s tack, as highlighted in this great Storify from Gabrielle Laine-Peters.

But instead, it responded to something in customer service mode that was not even a genuine customer service issue. No humour, no personality. Pointless.

To be clear, hundreds of users chimed in on Twitter either to comment on how professional Domino’s had remained, or to abuse @ITK_AGENT_VIGO. So I guess you could say that, between that and the ensuing blog coverage, Domino’s came out with a fantastic PR result.

I’m a big fan of what Domino’s did with #DominosMeltdown just a couple of weeks ago, which I thought was a spot of genius. But if one of my social media team responded in this manner to this tweet, I’d have hauled them over the coals for it. Do it properly or don’t do it at all.

Taking on a troll effectively takes confidence, personality and bravado, and the vast majority of brands should steer well clear and ignore troll-like behaviour. But if you’ve got the right tone of voice and attitude, it can work superbly well.

What do you make of Domino’s response?

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Facebook, Maslow & the Psychology of Social Media

Facebook, Maslow & the Psychology of Social Media

A couple of years ago, Boston University released the results of a study into the psychological aspects of why people use Facebook. It looked at how Facebook specifically, but in a wider sense social media in general, fits into the context of human needs.

The research concluded that, in line with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Facebook meets two human desires; those of belonging and self-presentation, both linked closely to self-esteem and self-worth. It hypothesised that there are differences in the way people use and share on Facebook according to cultural factors, and that there is an aspirational element to how we portray ourselves online.

Now, flip your mind from user to marketer if you’d be so kind.

What do you think, given what I’ve just described, should be the key characteristic of social communications professionals in 2014?

I’d like to suggest ‘empathy’. The capacity to understand why people follow your brand on Facebook or have tweeted you.

But when we talk about social media marketing we tend to talk in phrases like ‘reaching out’, ‘building relationships’ and ‘engaging in conversation’. Huh?! When was the last time, talking to friends on Facebook or Twitter you ‘reached out to build relationships by engaging them in conversation’?

At the end of the day, I’m ‘me’ and you’re ‘you’. If you believe Boston University, we all just want some recognition from that fact. People respond to people. And we respond to innate human characteristics like understanding, humour and compassion. We respond to others’ ability to put themselves in our shoes, to appreciate how we feel and to make us feel great about ourselves.

So, as social marketers, should we not drop the bullshit and just ‘be human’?

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Posted by Paul Sutton

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SEO, PR or Advertising Agency: Which is Best for Social Media?

confusedIf you’re a brand with a social media requirement and you’re looking to hire agency support, you have several options open to you. Pretty much every marketing agency now offers social communications as a service: you could go down the PR route, the advertising route or the SEO route.

But what’s the difference? What can you expect from each of these agency types? And how will the type of agency you select influence the type of social media programme you will implement?

Over the last couple of years I’ve had exposure to the approaches of all three. And they differ significantly not only in their goals and what they deliver, but also in terms of how they bill clients. Here’s what I’ve learned to expect.

SEO Agencies

SEO agencies’ mindset is ultimately to increase a client’s position in Google with the aim of delivering increases in website traffic. They know that Google is trying its best to produce natural search results and bypass the effects of SEO completely, and that with the likes of Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird, it’s making significant inroads into this. So they are naturally turning to more creative digital executions delivered via social networks to create the natural backlinks and social share signals that Google is placing ever increasing emphasis on.

However, in my experience SEO agencies may struggle with the concept of any social media activity that doesn’t positively affect search engine rankings. They view social communications as one or a series of discrete initiatives in owned media, each of which requires a separate approach, a separate creative execution and a separate budget. They tend to bill clients with a small monthly fee topped up by separate projects. So while creative ideas are often good as each project needs to be ‘sold in’ to the client, the executions may be costly or not always quite live up to what is pitched. Blogger relations, for example, can be somewhat clumsy.

Good for: short-term social media campaigns that impact search
Bad for: ongoing results and strategic brand building
Most likely to measure: click-through and backlinks

PR Agencies

PR agencies focus on managing reputations. PR people are experts at creating and maintaining beneficial long-term relationships, so when it comes to social media they are naturally drawn to building online communities and serving those communities with content that engages them on an ongoing basis. They want to see their communities, whether bloggers or on Facebook or Twitter or elsewhere, commenting, liking and sharing their content, and their focus is normally on earned media.

PR agencies take a long-term view of social media, and produce lots of content intended to start conversations. They bill using flat monthly fees based upon an agreed number of hours’ work and you normally sign up for a minimum of six months. The long-term view has benefits in that messages and content are usually devised to reinforce brand positioning over time and repeated exposure, but content may lack the ‘wow’ creativity of SEO agencies or the executional quality of advertising agencies.

Good for: building beneficial, personal online communities that gain repeated exposure to key brand messages over time
Bad for: instant wins and one off creative projects
Most likely to measure: engagement metrics

Disclosure: I work for BOTTLE, a PR and social communications agency

Advertising Agencies

Advertising agencies’ background lies in mass media that sells products and services. Accordingly, they tend to view social media as a one-to-many medium through which to broadcast key brand messages. As such, they are naturally drawn to paid media and are used to coming up with the ‘big idea’, and billing against creative commissions and media spend.

This approach can result in highly creative and extremely well-executed campaigns that may grab big short-term attention. However, it may lack the benefit of ongoing relationship building, with bloggers or social networks viewed as transient and a means to an end rather than as opportunities to create lasting, strategic dialogues.

Good for: the big idea and one-off, high impact campaigns
Bad for: long-term brand building, engagement and community advocacy
Most likely to measure: reach, impressions and fan/follower growth

These summaries should not be viewed as a rule for all agencies, but generally speaking each agency type has its own benefits and drawbacks. It’s important to be aware of the variations in implementation and billing structure when considering your options, and matching the agencies you talk to with your specific objectives.

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3 Steps That Will Completely Transform the Way You Use Facebook

d3e68cf1e59a3122b075260a010d612adc1dade0904b9bbef42f5cf80eacab8dOver the Christmas holiday I had something of a social media-related epiphany. With space and time to observe Facebook from a distance, it hit me just how overrun my newsfeed had become with irrelevant nonsense, and how many of the people and Pages I really wanted to hear from simply weren’t showing up at all.

For every intelligent, interesting or useful conversation or genuinely funny status update, there were 50 bits of inane rubbish from friends of friends and people I hardly knew. I started to question what the point is of investing time into a platform where you have little personal control over what appears in your own newsfeed.

A week ago I was so disillusioned that I was seriously, seriously considering ditching Facebook in favour of Google+. The one thing that stopped me switching was that there are some people I’m in touch with through Facebook and nowhere else.

And then I had a thought: what if there was a way of bypassing Facebook’s increasingly annoying algorithm and the newsfeed entirely?

The great news is that, as it turns out, there is. After a bit of lateral thinking I came up with something that’s extremely counter-intuitive as it involves removing pretty much everyone and everything from your newsfeed in order to actually see more of them. And it also takes time and thought to set up initially.

But within a matter of just hours of trying what I did think at the time was a last ditch attempt at making Facebook useful again, I was seeing the value I’d been missing. Facebook is now completely revitalised for me and a new place to spend time. I haven’t looked back since.

With a bit of effort you CAN beat Facebook at its own game. Here’s how…

————————————————————————————-

STEP ONE: PREPARATION

What we’re going to do here is to strip out your newsfeed so that it ONLY shows you the people and things you highly value. You’ll still be able to see everyone and everything else, but you’ll access it via a click on the menu rather than in your newsfeed.

The first step is to sit down with a pen and paper and spend some time carving up ALL of the people and Pages you follow into lists. (Note: you can do this just with people if you wish.) Keep your lists fairly generic and limit their number to as few as makes sense (I’d suggest no more than half a dozen). This is important due to the way you’re going to use Facebook in future; you don’t want to have to be accessing many lists.

How you organise your other lists is up to you, but there are two that you MUST make.

The first is your ‘Value List’: the people you really, truly value for their insight or humour; the people whose status updates you look forward to; the people you’d really miss if you left Facebook. It’s important to be candid: no-one’s going to see this, so if your best friend posts too much nonsense and doesn’t make the cut, then don’t include them. Remember, you will still be able to see everyone’s updates, just not in the main newsfeed. Add to this list the Pages you follow that you definitely want to see a lot from.

If you’re honest, this list will probably be pretty short. And that’s a good thing as you’re trying to extract value from your Facebook connections. Mine, for example, contains only 17 of my 200 Facebook friends.

The second is your ‘Meh List’: people whose status updates you’re not bothered about seeing but don’t want to unfriend. Maybe they post too much. Maybe they post dross. Maybe they’re not that interesting. Maybe you’re just not that close (think ‘old school friends’). You’ll probably find that, if you’re truthful, this list is fairly long.

After trial and error, I opted for five lists in total:

  1. My Value List
  2. People I see often in real life (hence not necessarily needing to see their status updates)
  3. People I know professionally who I want to maintain friendly relationships with
  4. Pages not on my Value List that I’d like to see sometimes
  5. My Meh List

————————————————————————————-

STEP TWO: ORGANISATION

You’re now going to transfer your paper plan into Facebook.

First, create and name the lists you’ve identified. Note that you do NOT need to create and name your Value and Meh Lists. This is because you’ll still view your Value List in the newsfeed and you won’t see the Meh List at all unless you actually visit those people’s profiles.

The quickest way to do this is to choose someone from each of those lists, visit their profile and click on ‘Add to another list’ in the Friends dropdown. You can then click on ‘+New List’.

new list

Having done this, complete your created lists in Facebook. Visit each person on those lists and on their profile do two things. First, add them to the appropriate list within the Friends dropdown as above, and second, Unfollow them by unclicking the ‘Following’ button. This second action is very important as it cleans up your newsfeed to just the people and Pages you really value (identified in your Value List).

following

Next, visit each of the people in your Value List and add them as ‘Close Friends’, a pre-determined list in the dropdowns. Unless you want a Facebook notification every time they post something, make sure you unclick Get Notifications. DO NOT Unfollow them.

close

Now visit each of the people in your Meh List and simply Unfollow them. And finally, visit any Pages that aren’t in your Value List and Unfollow them too (you can add them to an Interest List of your choosing so that you can easily find them again).

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STEP THREE: ACTION

You’ve now done all the hard work. The final step is to edit your Facebook ‘Favourites’ menu on the left hand side of your newsfeed.

Under the Friends section of the menu, click on the edit button of each of your created lists in turn and ‘Add to favourites’. Do the same under the Interests section if you created a list of Pages.

Once you’ve done this, click on the edit button on one of your lists under the Favourites menu and on ‘Rearrange’. Then just drag lists into the order you want (I recommend putting your lists directly under the newsfeed as they’re easy to find, especially on a mobile).

lists

That’s it. You’ll probably want to tweak people over the next few days as you may have missed some or want to move them, and you need to remember to add new people and Pages to lists as you go, but essentially, you’re done.

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NOW WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN?

When you use Facebook now, all that will appear in your newsfeed is updates from the people and Pages you have identified as truly valuable. So the newsfeed is still your first port of call. If you’ve been strict, you’ll be amazed how much more you see of these people and Pages as they’re no longer competing with all of the other stuff that was clogging your newsfeed.

What you’ll also do now though when you use Facebook is visit the lists you created to check in on others. And here’s the kicker: EVERYTHING from those people will appear in your lists as Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm doesn’t filter these. You can adjust the level of detail you see using the ‘Manage list/Choose update types’ function, which you can’t do in the newsfeed. But you’ll probably find, as I have, that after a week or so you visit these lists less as, if you’ve done your filtering well, all the valuable stuff should be in your newsfeed.

Using this method, you’re by and large side-stepping Edgerank and taking back control of your own profile from Facebook. You’re telling it what you want to see, rather than letting it show you what it guesses you want to see.

It’s early days for me using this method, and it will undoubtedly necessitate honing as I go, but I can honestly say that mass Unfollowing and using Lists instead has saved Facebook for me. It’s like an entirely new platform that I have complete control over, and I’d thoroughly recommend investing a couple of hours of your life to make this work for you.

Let me know what you think below. Will you be trying this? Any questions on the process? 

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Posted by Paul Sutton

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20 Awesome Tools, Apps, People & Resources to Watch in 2014

20 Awesome Tools, Apps, People & Resources to Watch in 2014As the new year gets under way, I thought it might be useful to take a look at some of the people and resources that have been positively impacting my working life over the last few months and which will give you a kick start in 2014.

I’d dearly love your input too, so please leave a comment at the end with any additions you feel would benefit others reading this.

So without further ado, here goes…

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6 PR Tools to Simplify Your Life

Releas’d: launched midway through 2013 but still in early development, Releas’d is an incredibly simply and intuitive way to create one-off web pages that can be used for interactive news releases, event invitations, reports, creds, case studies and more. It’s a tool that the PR industry has been crying out for for years.

InkyBee: blogger outreach made simple. Having tried several blogger outreach tools in the past, InkyBee is, for me, easily the best. It enables you to discover topic-related blogs, create and track campaigns and evaluate results.

Agorapulse: there are many Facebook Page management systems out there, but Agorapulse is the one that stands out for me in terms of simplicity and effectiveness. With multiple applications, statistics for reporting, CRM processes and moderation, it’s a great and reasonably priced all-rounder.

Pixlr: online photo editing software has always been a bit hit and miss, with nothing ever really coming close to Photoshop. But Pixlr is now a realistic challenger. And it’s free. For editing images wherever you are it’s worth a look, especially if you don’t have access to Photoshop.

Feed.ly: there was much ado about nothing when Google ditched Reader last year. I’d been using feed.ly for some time before then and others I’ve recommended it to since have never looked back. It works beautifully well (and seamlessly syncs) on both mobile and web, and is a must-have for tracking RSS and topic feeds.

Brandwatch: I appreciate that not every PR agency can afford to buy in a paid-for social media monitoring tool. But if you can, you could do a lot, lot worse than Brandwatch. It’s formed the backbone of many of BOTTLE’s campaigns in the last year, providing insightful data for campaign planning or management or evaluation.

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5 People You Simply Need to Know on Twitter

Emily Leary: also known these days as @amummytoo, Emily is one of the most knowledgeable and approachable people on the web. Digital consultant by day, she’s highly respected for her work with the likes of BT and E.On. But arguably it’s her ‘mummy blogger by night’ creds that really show how good she is. Inside of 18 months since launching her blog, she’s hit the top 10s of most UK parent blogger charts, she’s been nominated for awards, she’s been on online chat shows and is a regular on the parent blogger speaking circuit. And she’s quite possibly the most helpful person on the web. Go follow and make friends.

Danny Brown: if you work in marketing, you probably already know of Danny Brown through his award-winning blog. Or you may have read his 2013 book, Influence Marketing. Danny’s someone who says it as it is, and for that deserves massive respect and is worthy of your time. I recently culled the list of blogs I’m subscribed to, but Danny’s is one of the few that I retained. A must-follow for anyone who seeks continuous improvement.

Gini Dietrich: I’ve had a running battle with Mrs Dietrich for about three years now. In a good way. Both she and I were too busy to lock horns in 2013, but I feel worse for that. Gini knows her PR stuff like very few others in the world and is someone whose opinion you simply have to respect (even if you…well, I…don’t agree with it all the time). If you work in or around PR and social media, you’d be a fool not to follow and get to know her.

Gabrielle Laine-Peters: I wrote back in October of my respect for Gabrielle and, without wishing to repeat that post, she’s someone who truly understands the social mindset. A voracious reader and tweeter, she’s someone who supplies a constant stream of interesting articles and nuggets on varying topics. She’s also generous with her time, opinions and conversations, and is someone you know you could rely upon.

Danny Whatmough: Danny’s someone who I’ve known for a few years and who has gone from strength to strength over the last year or so. Now working at Ketchum UK and chairman of the PRCA Digital Group, he knows his digital beans and is highly respected. If you work in PR and are based in the UK, Danny’s someone you should know.

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5 Mobile Apps that Will Rock Your World

Zite: a lot is made of Flipboard, but for me, Zite is the de-facto news app I use every single day. Others such as Circa and Pulse show a lot of promise, but something about Zite’s layout and programmability, and the content it pulls in, makes it more efficient and useful than any other news/interests app I’ve tried.

MightyText: this Android only app provides a seamless link between mobile and desktop. It runs on the background of your device and enables you to text using your desktop screen and keyboard while your mobile is in your pocket or bag. Simple, but hugely effective.

Wunderlist: not a new app by any means, but as far as productivity management goes Wunderlist is a gem. Create multiple to-do lists and reminders, sync between mobile and web, collaborate with others – it really does help make life simpler.

BufferApp: you may already be familiar with Buffer, but if not check it out. Buffer enables you to schedule posts for multiple Twitter profiles, Facebook profiles and Pages, LinkedIn profiles, Pages and Groups and Google+ Pages according to a pre-set pattern with just a couple of clicks on your mobile. Also syncs with the web version to save huge amounts of time.

SwiftKey: I only discovered SwiftKey at the back end of the year, but it’s transformed the keyboard on my HTC One. It’s not just the speed with which you can enter text that counts, but the way SwiftKey intelligently predicts the next word you may use that makes this so impressive. Takes a little get used to initially, but it cuts typing time down by over 50%.

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3 Slices of Top Notch Bedtime Reading

Newsjacking: Published in April last year by the authors of the Urgent Genius blog, Newsjacking is a great reference book of real-time advertising case studies from around the world. Beautifully presented and easy to flip through, it’s almost a coffee table book for geeks. If you’re seeking inspiration to cut through the real-time dross that’s emerged over the last few months, Newsjacking is a great guide to what can be achieved with data, insight and creativity.

Groundswell: this is not a new book. In fact, in social media terms it’s positively old, first published in 2008. Even the revised version (2011) could now be considered dated. But such is the trend it describes that it’s still hugely relevant and a book that everyone working in PR, social media and marketing should read and understand the implications of. If you haven’t read it yet, make a point of doing so soon. And if you have, read it again!

SpinSucks: I don’t know whether this is a good book or not as it’s yet to be published! But from the pen of Gini Dietrich, founder of the wonderful SpinSucks blog, it’s a book I’m very much looking forward to reading when it’s released in February. And if you work in PR or social media, you should be too.

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1 Campaign You Should Know About

Pompeii Live: there’s no such thing as the perfect marketing campaign, but the British Museum’s Pompeii Live from last year is an example that many could learn from. Devised to promote an exhibition, the campaign fused elements of social media, real-time marketing and PR with an engrossing multimedia approach that paid huge benefits for the British Museum. Understanding how this worked and what went into it opens up all sorts of creative avenues, and if more campaigns like this emerge in 2014, we’ll all be better off for it.

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That’s it for now. I hope you find the above useful, and please do leave your own recommendations and additions in the comments below. Thanks for reading, and I wish you and yours a wonderful 2014.

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Posted by Paul Sutton

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Facebook’s New Look and 3 Social Layout Tips

Social Layout Tips

This is a guest post by Rob Sutter.

Just recently, Facebook rolled out its newest layout; something that I am sure most social media enthusiasts have grown accustomed to. After all, it seems like every other week there’s something different on a particular site where there’s a massive audience, so news like this isn’t totally surprising. With that said, Facebook executed a layout change that could best be called ‘minimalist’. My take on the matter?

The layout looks fine. It doesn’t look sloppy or extravagant, which is fine on paper. As long as the overall functionality of the site is kept intact and the buttons remain where they were before, you will not hear many individuals complaining about a layout change. However, there are those who have taken to airing their grievances about this particular shift. Facebook now looks more like its mobile version on laptops as opposed to a proposed format which would feature prominent media like photos and videos.

Discussion regarding which layout would have been best is subjective, but it does raise a point that any online marketing company should be aware of. What makes a good layout on any social media platform or any website in general? What is it that drives visitors to come back time and time again?

Here is a list of 3 tips for those who would like to create the best possible layout.

1. Keep your layout aesthetically simple

One of the biggest turnoffs for me regarding any website is clutter. It doesn’t matter how well-designed certain images are or how many colors are utilized; if the layout itself is too busy, chances are that my attention is not going to be kept for long. While certain companies may want to go big – and understandably so – I’d argue that it’s much more effective to keep layouts more basic. Yes, identities should be clear on any website, so brand logos and aspects of that nature should not be cast aside. However, they have to be integrated in ways that doesn’t make the visitor feel overwhelmed.

2. Lower the number of pages as much as possible

Another aspect that should be seen in the way of simplicity is a minimal amount of pages to click between. There’s nothing wrong with a broad scope for your website but, ultimately, adding too much can wind up turning many people away. For example, what if you wanted to start a business that focused on repairing computers? Those who are tech-savvy may not be turned away by multiple pages but what about those who wouldn’t know the USB port from the HDMI port? The latter may feel intimidated to visit your page as a result, so it’s important to minimize the number of clickable links, which is a challenge that the strongest designers can overcome.

3. Make sure your layout is mobile friendly

CNN.com recently posted an article that covered how mobile app usage is greater than that of Internet through PCs. More specifically, this past January, 55% of Internet usage came from mobile devices like smartphones. It’s clear that there is a shift occurring in this regard and companies have to account for it. When they create layouts, they have to make sure that their layouts will not only fit computers but iPhones and other such phones with Internet access. If you are unable to cover both fields, the number of visitors that you retail might not be as high as your competition, so be mindful of various platforms.

Rob Sutter is a content writer for fishbat, a digital marketing firm in Bohemia, NY.

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Posted by Paul Sutton

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How the Rise of Mobile is Changing Advertising

mobile advertising

This is a guest post by Jessica Oaks

Are desktops dead? Not quite, but they’re certainly making their way into a hospice at a good clip thanks to the mega boost in tablet sales that defined the 2013 holiday season.

It wasn’t just the change in buying habits that was abrupt – consumption habits and devices were changing, too, and fast. Suddenly browsing, shopping, watching movies, checking email and playing games on a device roughly the size of a hardback novel was the norm because tablets were ultra affordable.

And there’s no stopping the trend. Analysts at Gartner, an American information technology research and advisory firm, have predicted that tablets and smartphones will outsell both ultramobiles and traditional laptop and desktops PCs worldwide by 2017.

But to come back to the present, 2014 is predicted to be the year of mobile. In the US, mobile sales are driving more than 20% of total online revenue and mobile traffic accounts for 25% of total traffic to retail sites. Mobile payment apps are poised to make plastic obsolete.

The ‘mobile first’ mentality of development is slowly but surely altering the way we interact with information even when we’re not using a mobile device. And the way we interact with brands is changing, which is driving transformations in how businesses and advertisers market to their online audience.

Here are some examples of ways advertising is changing or needs to change to adapt to an increasingly mobile world.

Advertising or Content?

Mobile banner ads are still around but if Facebook has shown us anything it’s that integrating marketing messages into the content stream is a wise strategy – so expect to see more targeted pitches appearing as part of feeds, Facebook or otherwise.

The Rise of the Short

Thanks to major player like Samsung, Google and Lenovo that produce a myriad of tablets and mobile devices, email marketing is thriving among companies who’ve actively changed how they deliver customer updates. That means not only formatting email newsletters for mobile, but also keeping the message short, punchy and did I mention short? Recipients reading on mobile want marketers to get to the point.

Moving Beyond Push Media

Switching between apps is so easy that if you’re not capturing your mobile demographic’s attention on the first try you’re sunk. Successful mobile advertising means delivering an engaging experience that is as entertaining as it is informative. Think videos, mini games and other super shareable assets.

Optimize or Die

Brands that were slow to optimize for mobile where their advertising was concerned need to get on board the bandwagon now because they’re likely already losing potential customers. The good news is that putting in the effort to give mobile users the best possible experience is worth it – people who use tablets are more easily engaged, according to a report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

Try, Try Again

Right now consumers are in charge of what they see on tablets and smartphones, making effective advertising tricky. There’s no perfect formula for attracting eyeballs and no proven strategies for keeping them glued… yet.

Until then, marketers targeting mobile will need to do plenty of A/B testing to figure out what’s working and what’s not, then adjust as necessary. End user research is going to be incredibly important moving forward.

Way back in 2012, Tim Elkington, director of research and strategy at IAB, said: “…marketers are becoming more attuned to the ‘always on’ nature of consumers who expect to engage with content wherever they are. Consequently, advertisers are increasingly buying integrated campaigns across online and mobile rather than regarding mobile as an afterthought”. Now, digital marketing analysis firm eMarketer expects ad spending on the channel to nearly double in 2014 to almost £2.26 billion.

If that figure has left you feeling a bit breathless, it’s probably time to go take a good long look at your mobile ad strategy – before it’s too late.

Jessica Oaks is a freelance writer and associate editor at www.freshlytechy.com. You can follow her on Twitter or circle her on Google+.

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Posted by Paul Sutton

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