When it comes to social media channels, over 70% of people in the United States have at least one profile on social media. New users are constantly joining the virtual world on various platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. We all know social media allows us to connect, share and communicate with others that hold similar interests and social circles.

Businesses of all backgrounds are capitalizing on social media’s popularity. With ever-expanding opportunities to find their ideal customers, social media bridges a very intimate gap between the consumer and the seller, connecting with them in relatable, specific and organic aspects. How can a business wade the waters between sales-forward advertising and establishing lasting relationships? The answer is 2 words, Brand Advocacy.

What Is Brand Advocacy?

Brand advocacy is about pooling resources together, such as people with a large fanbase and following, to share a brand, product or message on their social channels. In other words, it’s a way to spread the love with those who would otherwise miss out or look past the opportunity when presented to them. By sharing a message with fans who trust and interact with you, the results are of higher quality. People who leave comments and product reviews on a company or host site like TripAdvisor, Yelp and Houzz are indirect advocates. They are sharing honest feedback without an incentive.

How Does Brand Advocacy Function?

Brand advocacy is a successful organic way to gain results for a new startup company, feature product or a simple blog post. You don’t need to wait on promoting something important until your page reaches your fan goal of 50,000 followers (which of course takes longer that expected). Instead announce it to your employees, family and friends. Ask them to share the post or create their own content to discuss what you want to share. Send them a link to leave a review on a third party site. It’s amazing to see how far one Facebook post or tweet can travel. It just might even go viral!

Find Your Brand Advocates

First, you must identify what kind of content or information you want to share with the virtual world. Once that is mapped out, it’s time to do some digging. Find people with large followings on social media who share an interest in what your business or startup has to offer. Connecting with people in your niche is the most valuable, so everyone can benefit from the relationship. You can also reach out to top customers, employees, family and anyone in between. Go all out; you can never have too many friends on Facebook and followers on Instagram.

Everyone Loves Candy

The last step is providing an incentive. Of course asking for favors is an acceptable method, but the best brand advocates are ones who feel loyal to you and understand that they are appreciated. Offering them a complimentary service, gift certificate or treating them to a nice dinner, are all modest ways of making a trade without putting a price on it. Sending an email with a redeemable coupon code to anyone who rates your brand or leaves a product review is another viable option. The little steps go a long way with building up brand awareness and solidifying the brand persona.

Surprise Them

When it comes to adding value to any startup or business, both large and small, brand advocates can be very influential without the wasteful advertising costs. Add in an element of surprise to your customer service, like putting a small gadget into every delivery or shoot a behind the scenes video and send it to your email lists.

Real Brands, Real Brand Advocates

Give people something to talk about. Make them brand advocates without even asking. And be sure to stay active on all social channels (especially on Twitter and Snapchat) to scout out natives who can support you and join the community. Remember, happy people are the ones who spend money and keep you in business. #StartAdvocating

Need Help With Your Social Strategy?

Our team at Ajax Union is here to help you make an amazing social media campaign. Get in contact with us so we can walk you through the realm of online marketing!

Episode 5 of our monthly marketing podcast dives deep into the existential realm of social media. We talk about the questions no one is asking, the taboos, the news, and the evolution of the anomaly that is social media. Tune in and make sure you bookmark our blog for more marketing goodness.

Ajax Union is a full service digital marketing agency based in Brooklyn, New York.

Social media contributes to the growth of businesses and brands in very different ways, neither of them are more important than the other. However, the type of blend you utilize depends on what your goals are, but before you can establish your goals, it helps to understand the different benefits having a social media presence. Here we go!

Here, there, everywhere!

Social media allows us to reach audiences that are not within our immediate vicinity. Even if you don’t intend to sell to someone who is in another time zone, being able to spread your voice helps to build brand awareness, after all, we can connect to anyone in the world through six people. Having a voice that reaches further enables you to engage with audiences you otherwise couldn’t reach.

“Get to know you” phase.

A good marketing plan starts with the target audience. Aside from the “who am I” aspect of building out a marketing plan, “Who am I trying to reach” is a main driver, but how do you start getting to know your audience? What do they like to eat? What are their habits? Where do they work? What music do they listen to? What car do they drive? All good questions that can ultimately help you position your business / brand in a more perceptive and intuitive fashion. Understand the demographics and patterns of your customers. With social media you can get past the “get to know you” phase, and move into the nitty gritty good stuff.

Be better, for them.

Great customer service has been, for ages, one of the most critical aspects of maintaining your business / brand. Social media opens up a channel for your team to provide instant, or near instant, customer service, and receive feedback. Honest opinions are common ground in the social media realm, and having direct insights to this is critical.

Scope of reach.

Make it easy for potential customers to find you. A majority of the population has a smartphone, and most of them have a social media app, this means they can contact you via a social media platform rather than email or phone. Other than being readily accessible to your clients, your social media presence rapidly increased your market share within your industry.

Less money, more doing.

One of the best parts about social media is the few tools you need to make it happen, at a very low cost. All you need is an able mind, internet, and a digital device. You can do a lot with a small budget, and if you target your posts properly, your reach can be pinpointed to a detail. Social media is a great place to test more expensive marketing campaigns as well. It’s easy to get started, and at a low cost, it’s a great tool for businesses and brands who are just starting out.

Industry expert level: 10.

Building relationships with your customers is great and all, but do your friends think you’re educated and cool? Social media gives your business more possibilities to establish yourselves as industry experts, all the while not losing your brand voice.

Need help with your social strategy? Our team at Ajax is here to help you make a great social media campaign. Contact your friends at Ajax Union today!

When it comes to managing a social presence for your business, It’s inevitable to have profiles on multiple social networks. There’s your Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter feeds, Google+ and Linkedin groups, the list goes on. Every platform demands an incredible amount of your time; whether it’s creating content, growing your presence, or engaging with your social community.

At this point, it’s a matter of efficiency. You have a business to run, your team is already bombarded with tasks. You’re probably looking for a way to manage your social media presence more efficiently. While there are several options to manage your accounts, today we’re going to focus on Hootsuite, it’s features, and it’s ability to help you get a solid grip on managing several accounts efficiently.

Monitoring your Social Presence.

Hootsuite has the unique feature to organize information into separate tabs within the dashboard, and within those tabs you can have up to 10 social media streams.

Hootsuite supports five social platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Instagram. You can choose different types of information to monitor for each platform. Below we break down the features on Hootsuite for each social platform:

Twitter

  • Monitor news feeds of profiles you follow.
  • Keep track of your brand mentions.
  • Read messages in your direct message inbox.
  • See your retweeted content.
  • Track scheduled tweets.
  • See and engage with tweets from people in your twitter lists.
  • Publish live tweets or schedule them.
  • Reply to tweets.
  • Send direct messages.

Facebook Business Page

  • Read messages sent directly to your page.
  • Monitor and comment on posts made by others to your page.
  • Publish and schedule posts on your timeline.
  • Manage your company FB events.
  • Quick suggestion: Hootsuite allows you to create a tab of other Facebook pages whose audiences are similar to your target market. This allows you to reach a new target base.

Google+ Company Page

  • Publish and schedule posts to your page feed.
  • Monitor and edit posts you’ve made to your page.
  • Comment on posts made to your page.
  • Monitor the content from your Google+ circles and groups.
  • Engage with your home news feed streams.

LinkedIn Company Page

  • Publish and schedule posts to your company page.
  • Reply to comments made to your company posts.
  • Monitor updates on your company page and your Linkedin groups.

Instagram

  • Monitor your home news feed, your own posts, and your followers posts.
  • See the latest people you’ve followed.
  • Search posts from specific accounts, locations, and hashtags.
  • You cannot publish from Hootsuite, but you can use Schedugram to publish from your desktop.
  • Comment on Instagram posts.

Keeping tabs on your tabs.

Overall, the power of social media is far reaching. Gone are the days of simply posting content and going on with your day. To fully reap the benefits of an intelligent social media strategy, you must take the time to engage with your audience and community that you have spent so much time creating content for. Platforms like Hootsuite help to make your efforts efficient.

Need help with your social strategy? Our team at Ajax is here to help you manage your social media presence. Contact an Ajax Union representative today!

A field of change: contemporary marketing.

The marketing landscape is a perpetually changing scene, the only constant in this industry is that it will inevitably change. What once was an in-print advertorial is now a lifestyle blogger with 300k Facebook followers capable of mass promoting a brand by posting a single photograph with a #hashtag. It’s challenging to stay current in this dynamic environment to say the least.

A relatively new frontier is the social media sphere. A sphere where one in seven people in the entire world reside. Take a moment to think about that, one-in-seven human beings on this planet utilizes social media platforms, like Facebook. Now how are you going to harness the power of this considerably large group of potential customers?

Most marketers think of social media as a way of building a brand. While they are correct, this methodology is limiting the scope of reach available to businesses worldwide. A steady flow of leads most definitely can come from social media, it is far more than just a way to build a brand and engage with your community. Social media is still one of the most powerful channels for building a brand and generating buzz, and now it is progressively used for lead generation.

The efficient marketing dollar.

Social media is a cost effective method of generating leads. Bringing people into your sales funnel is what lead generation is all about. Lead generation is very similar to an intelligence agency gathering data on their users. As marketers, this data about the leads is used to find out who the target audience is, which products you could sell to them, and how you can eventually turn them into paying customers.

Today, methods of generating leads include distributing gated content, email opt-ins, viral video marketing, and social media – all aimed at landing the leads into your sales funnel. With the ability to execute these tasks online, it is now quicker, more effective, easier to track, and cost efficient.

Ready, set, goal.

By now I hope you’ve gathered social media is a powerful lead generation platform that runs on minimum cost with maximum benefits. But, you can’t start any type of marketing without a goal. This is an opportune time to sit with your team, a diverse group of employees from different departments preferably, and create a set of lead identification goals.

Specific questions to ask:

  • How many leads and in what period of time?
  • Who is your lead, who do you want as a lead?
  • What does a perfect lead look like?
  • How would you attract this perfect lead?

Once goal parameters are initiated and decided upon, it’s time to focus on a strategy on how to get those leads.

Content content content.

Before embarking on the quest for more leads, you must first chart your plan, in other words you need to create a content strategy. Said strategy should focus on creating content for your website, blog, and all social media channels. But not just any content will do. Create content that is purpose driven; content created for content’s sake not only diminishes the credibility of your brand, but wastes time. Instead of turning out 5 blog posts a week, write 1 great post – the time spent on it will reflect the caliber of your business. Every team member involved in writing content should be a part of the content strategy creation plan, this will motivate everyone to create content that is purpose driven. A lead generating plan will be less successful if the quality of your content is questionable or not purpose driven.

Share great content.

Capturing leads on social media is not as simple as posting a newsletter signup link on your Facebook page. If you want to turn a lead into a prospect, you’re going to have to dedicate work to it. And that means creating and sharing great content. Great content implements imagery, graphic design, video, audio, is relevant to your audience, and inspires them to engage with it.

Use social media to tell stories. You’ve already outlined in the content strategy plan that you intend to create great content that will generate leads. How you deliver this content is just as important. The unique thing about social media is that it’s, well, social. People are sharing, telling stories, shouting their accomplishments from their virtual rooftops. Take advantage of this by crafting and delivering your content in a way that mimics what is already happening on the social channel. Tell a story. Don’t talk at people on social media, talk with them. Ask for feedback, engage with the community in an organic way, and your content will perform better.

Peer-to-peer.

With one in every seven people on this planet on social media, there’s inevitably going to be a lot of sharing. Social media is a place where most people feel safe to share information. People readily share information from an array of subjects – from whom they’re voting for to what type of organic peanut butter they’re into.

Marketers have the ability to cater each campaign to a very specific group of people based on this open sharing platform. But with more information comes a big change. Social marketing is shifting away from company-to-buyer messaging. The new shift is in the empowerment of the individual, where influence reigns supreme. Peer-to-peer influence marketing is where current customers become brand advocates. Leveraging the power of this communication delivers increased brand authenticity at little to no cost to you, and it is one of the most credible forms of advertising.

Facebook news feed.

Facebook’s news feed uses an algorithm to determine which posts get displayed on a user’s news feed, their personal homepage on the network. Why is this important? In order for a lead generating campaign to be successful, you have to get your content in front of the people you created it for. It doesn’t matter if your team spent 20 hours crafting an award winning promotional video, if it doesn’t land in your potential leads news feed, there’s a big chance it will be missed entirely.

So how do you get your posts to appear? This algorithm is under constant construction, but like Google, it always responds to the users engagement. The word engagement is thrown around social media frequently, it’s importance is highly underrated. Engagement with your content is what will make your content, well, for lack of better words, more engaging. Basically, the more users interact with your content, the more it will show up on the news feed, where more people in their networks will be able to see it, and in turn, engage with it themselves. If engagement with the content is low, Facebook drops it from the news feed, where it will then live in your business page forever, or until you delete it.

Here are some other factors that the algorithm considers:

  • Affinity: How close is the relationship between the user and content?
  • Weight: What type of action was taken on the content?
  • Decay: How current is the content?
  • Post Types: What types of posts does a user typically interact with?
  • Hide Post/Spam: What types of posts does a user usually hide or mark as spam?
  • Clicking on Ads: Do users interact with the ad?
  • Device Considerations: Can multiple devices handle your content?
  • Story Bumping: A post may be older, but is it still being interacted with?

When creating your initial content strategy, take this news feed scenario into consideration. Don’t overcomplicate it. The type of content you create should relay your message, but consider making it fun, engaging, and native to the social channel.

Boosting your visibility.

So you must be wondering, can we buy our way into the news feed? Why, yes, yes you can. You can promote a post aka boost it. The amount you invest in boosting depends on how many people you want to reach. In this case more is not necessarily better, it depends on your content strategy, and marketing objectives.

Not only does promoting your post boost visibility, it extends the life of the post. With more visibility, comes more responsibility, and that means making sure there is a strong call to action in the post. A strong CTA can be anything from asking followers to download an asset, or fill out a quick form, or engage in a contest – whichever the CTA, just make sure there is one.

Invest a little more.

Facebook was launched in 2004, advertising on the platform was introduced one year later. Facebook advertising is a unique method of digital advertising, as no other portion of your marketing budget can mimic the potential value of social advertising. The concepts we touched upon earlier, like peer-to-peer influences, current customers becoming brand advocates, word-of-mouth, are all intensified through advertising. When someone sees that a friend already likes a product or service that came across their news feed, the barriers to entry are lowered, and trust in the brand is increased.

Facebook advertising is most effective when marketers take what is already being said about the product, and scream it from their proverbial virtual rooftop. It is word-of-mouth, propelled. With Facebook ads, users see the ads on a regular basis, they also get to see if their friend likes it too. Over a short period of time users get to see your ad multiple times, developing familiarity with your brand. This builds a level of trust and comfort, ultimately relieving some of the pressure for your website or landing page to deliver the message and immediately perform.

Facebook ads make people talk about your business. It creates brand advocates, influencers, and builds word-of-mouth. The ads on Facebook not only help you generate leads, but they help you build a long-lasting trusting relationship with your customer.

Lookalike audiences and predictive analytics, it’s fun stuff.

You know how when you own a minivan, all of a sudden you see hundreds of minivans on the road? Lookalike audiences is Facebook’s way of re-creating this phenomena. When you create an advertising campaign on Facebook, you have the option to reach people similar to your known audience, using a technique called “lookalike” audiences. Using your customer relationship management tool (CRM) to import a database, or list, of prospective clients, this tool allows you to create a segmented list composed of qualified identification information, like social handles and emails. Facebook then creates a “lookalike” audience using fancy algorithms. From there, you and your team can craft a specific marketing campaign to this lookalike audience, and tailor it however you’d like. Technology, man.

I bet you’re wondering where the bulleted tips section is? See below.

au-site-quicktips (2)

Quick tips for social media lead generation:

  • Organic traffic needs help; don’t be afraid to invest a portion of your marketing budget into social
  • Develop incredible content
  • Create strong and friendly call-to-actions
  • Always add value
  • Never forget that social is a two-way street
  • Tag relevant influencers
  • Post your content in relevant groups and communities
  • Develop a strategy before posting content
  • Know your target market
  • Engage, respond to comments, questions, and messages
  • Use industry leaders as guest writers to help build your content
  • Cross promote from your page, your other social channels, from partners, and at every chance you get
  • Reach out to industry partners, develop sharing partnerships
  • Take analytics seriously

Fun and sophisticated.

Social media platforms are becoming more and more sophisticated. Marketers now have an immense amount of opportunities to strategically attract leads. Gone are the days of simply building a following. The appeal of social media marketing is focused on turning those followers into warm leads, and these leads genuinely trust what you have to say, and are interested in hearing from you. So go get ‘em tiger!

Need help with your social strategy? Our team at Ajax is here to help you in using social media to generate leads. Contact an Ajax Union representative today!

Social Media Myths
Social media can feel like the Wild West. Trolls can pop up and derail the day with unshakable complaints, your business’s narrative can get hijacked by unexpected events, and somehow everyone is trying to get paid for helping you “spread your message.” Getting a handle on your social media requires you to be proactive, engaged, and able to separate social media fact from social media fiction.

Here are some of the most egregious lies business owners hear about their social presence:

  1. “Social media is for kids.” Though it has been around in various forms for nearly twenty years to many social media remains too young to waste time on. That has rapidly changed over the last several years. Networks like Facebook and Twitter have expanded their reach with affluent folks in their 40’s and 50’s faster than any other audience. These people are online, engaged, and ready to spend money.
  2. “It’s great because it’s free.” The most creative advertisers in the world can make an amazing impact on social media but not without a little financial boost. Getting an audience to pay attention to your message will cost you, even on social media. Facebook in particular is not very generous when it comes to placing posts from businesses. Instead they insist on payment to get your content in front of as many eyeballs as possible. The good news is that even paid social media remains just a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising.
  3. “Mastering social media is easy!” Watching an office of social media pros can be misleading. A congenial attitude, lax dress code, and dozens of millennials staring at their laptop screens might not seem like work but it is! Identifying your audience, perfecting your message, and building a strategy to make both of those efforts renewable is not a one day job. It is an ongoing ever changing process that requires inventiveness, analysis, and ingenuity. It is definitely not easy!
  4. “This is just a way to spread your message.” Social media is about messaging but to suggest that it is only about getting the word out is a grave miscalculation. When harnessed properly everything from Pinterest and Instagram to LinkedIn can be a money making engine for your business. Whether you are taking the information of your social media audience and using it to improve your company’s targets or simply funneling customers through a clearly manageable sales pipeline there is real money to be made from social media.
  5. “Negative comments make social media too risky.” No business has the universal approval of everyone. Making a profit necessitates compromises that can frustrate certain customers and, thanks to social media, they have an unsilenceable voice. The greater risk however is that you would have no control over the narrative. By being proactive with customer service on social media you can tamp down the fires of unsatisfied customers and move on from these issues, rather than ignoring them.
  6. “No rush.” If you had the foresight to own and operate a website for your company in the mid 90’s chances are you got the jump on your competition in important ways. Similarly current businesses who develop a presence on social networks have the leg up on competition, finding an audience, building a recognizable brand, and making sales that could have been yours. If you haven’t gotten on social media yet there is no time like the present.
  7. “Manage your social media in your off time.” For the most successful people on social media maintaining a presence is not so much a full-time job as it runs underneath everything you do. The Internet does not stop and neither does your social media presence. Managing it means frequent check-ins, perpetual engagement, and knowing when to sit back and listen.
  8. “Social media’s effectiveness is immeasurable.” Whether setting up goal tracking in Google Analytics or monitoring everything via a tool like Raventools there has long been ways to see if social media was driving sales and generating leads. Beyond that understanding the full reach of your posts is now easier than ever with Facebook, Twitter, and other networks offering real time info on post views and engagement. On social media there are many clear metrics of success.
  9. “You have to hire someone.” Some business owners find the very idea of managing their social media nerve racking. As a result many assume someone needs to be hired to manage social full-time. Companies, like Ajax Union, offer great plans for companies to avoid having to bring someone in to manage social in house. For companies with lower budgets there are even options to have social media coaching providing you with the knowledge and tools to properly navigate this world.
  10. “The more content you post the better.” Quantity rarely beats quality. This is especially true of engaging with users on social media. Businesses(and normal people for that matter) always lose followers if content begins to overwhelm a follower’s feed. Be smart about your promotional posts and always try to offer value with your content. Consistency is important when it comes to social content but balancing maintaining a presence with maintaining value is vital.
  11. “More fans and followers mean everything.” Having a huge number of fans or followers is only helpful if they are engaged and able to make a profit. If you are a local business having thousands of fans hundreds of miles away might look impressive but it is unlikely to help your bottom line. More likely all of those extra eyes on your sponsored posts is going to cost you money and reduce your presence among people who might actually use your business.

No product or service is ubiquitous; consumers are unique and not all are going to coincide with what your company is offering. With that in mind, it’s important to stress your company’s individuality and seek out the “right” type of client or customer.You know they’re out there, but how do you find them? And more importantly, how do they find you?

 

Social Media

Now that you’ve established who that perfect customer is, find out where they spend their time. Social Media has an outlet for just about everyone, so find out which channel your target market prefers. Facebook ranks as the world’s most popular social media channel (no surprises there) accounting for 71% of all internet users. It’s a great starting point — and one which allows you to target users by what their other interests are, or even to target friends of existing fans. Pinterest is preferred by women ages 18 to 49, and Instagram is popular with younger internet users, ages 18 to 29, and minorities. On all networks, interacting with brands, personalities, and groups your ideal customer is also likely to be interested in is a great way to improve reach.

 

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

The first step in effective SEM is picking a set of keywords your customers will actually use. This means using language customers may type in looking for specific products — their jargon, not yours. SEM can also can target geographically, which is especially helpful for businesses targeting locally, such as restaurants, cleaning services, medical practices, and city or region specific non-profits.

 

Email Marketing

Use your email to reinforce brand image and clarify product offers. To make sure your email list is focussed and targeted, provide a clear unsubscribe option — not just out of legal obligation, but to make sure anyone who accidently submitted a form or joined a list can get off you list of potential customers. Better yet, provide an option for less frequent emails to keep anyone who is interested, but doesn’t want too many updates.

 

Content Marketing

Targeted content designed to attract your ideal customers is key. For example, for apparel or accessories retailers, a well-edited blog focussing on styles and trends on brand can be a great asset. If you’re Hot Topic, don’t write about pastels for spring–stick to content that truly reflects your brand. Create articles, infographics, videos and slide shares your ideal customer would want to see, even if they aren’t completely about your product. For example, a company that sells pet food can help find customers by creating pieces about pet grooming, training, and animal rescue to attract animal lovers and likely pet owners.

 

Digital PR

Online Press Releases are a great way to address consumer questions or concerns directly, and help attract consumers looking for specific information. For instance, if your brand has launched a line of sweatshop-free clothing, highlight your efforts in a press release to garner the attention of consumers looking for fair labor items.

 

SEO

As with SEM, productive, effective Search Engine Optimization begins with a set of keywords carefully chosen to fit the searches of your targeted audience. Try using Google Trends to key in on what words or phrases people are actually looking for. Additionally, make sure to audit and update your SEO frequently with new product offerings.

 

Inbound marketing

If you are a service provider, a brief form fill can help visitors self identify in ways which clarify whether they are a good fit. For example, if you service clients primarily on the east coast, a form fill asking what region the person is writing from can help you understand immediately who may be eligible for referral to another service.

 

When a potential customer for a service calls in, it’s also imperative to appropriately qualify them and make sure you are a good fit for each other. Questions about needs, budget, and timeframe will help you both determine when it’s a good fit.

 

Customer Service

As your business grows, make sure to check in with customers to see how they are feeling about your service or products. If you are are a service provider and a customer’s needs are no longer a perfect fit for your model, offer referrals or other options. Evaluate your business model to make sure it still is a fit for the kind of customers you want to service. A good fit means a win-win.

 

Need help targeting your ideal customer online? Contact an Ajax Union representative today!