social media

Why I'm Protecting My Social Circle in 2019

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Remember when you first signed up for Facebook? Chances are you added whoever tried to add you, brands››› that sent you page likes requests were added on auto-pilot and that annoying person from high school who's now that annoying person in the adult world somehow made it onto your friends list. Then you probably carried that habit over onto LinkedIn. I did it and according to a Mashable poll from 2016 so did over 70% of users.

In 2019, the name of the game is tightening up social circles. This is true for many, especially in my case. Here's how I use my social networks:

  • Facebook: I only add people I know or with whom I have 100+ connections in common. When it comes to brands, I only add them and have turned off notifs to get invites.

  • LinkedIn: This is a professional playground, so to speak. So, that in mind I only add those whom I can see having a mutually beneficial relationship. Two good examples would be someone who could potentially be a client. I benefit by getting a client and they benefit from my agency giving them ROI backed campaigns. Another would be someone in an industry that I could see myself needing in the future.

  • Instagram: I'll add anyone in my industry, that I know, or who interacts with my written word.

  • Twitter: I don't even bother with the tweets anymore. It's become too negative of a space.

There are clear no-brainer blocks in my social world:

  • Lead gen companies not willing to give up real proof of concept or not willing to work on commission.

  • Someone who sends me a spammy message with a connection request.

  • Any business on LinkedIn that has their business name as their profile name.

  • Any person or business with following counts that dwarf their followers count.

I protect my social circles because just like the real world, I wouldn't give anyone the time of day if they weren't following basic social decorum. Social media is no different. It's SOCIAL media, which means you should be trying to build relationships, not throw digital billboards at people and hope someone wants what you have to offer (personally and professionally).

REAL Teamwork Makes the Social Dream Work

Teamwork

I come from the nightlife industry, which is essentially "Try Anything 101". Those in nightlife spend endless amounts of time and money testing new features and opportunities in social media extensively. Now in most cases, the testing is flawed because they don't have a business background and can't fully understand the delicate balance between advertising and assault but one thing is certain; if you see nightlife people doing something on social media you've never seen before, it's coming to an industry near you.

This is no more evident than in the gratuitous use of staff members in social media marketing. Back in 2008 (yes, 11 years ago) I opened up a nightclub and pretty much banked its entire success on the staff. We made videos, bios, had them post about the club, and featured them in as many pictures as possible. The crazy thing is ... it worked! We were packed.

However, nightlife has—much like they do with everything—taken things too far. Staff are now forced to post on behalf of the club. Yes, forced! I suspect this is because nightlife entrepreneurs generally don't like spending money and because they want to blame failure on their staff "not doing it right". A dirty little secret of the industry is that everyone is planning for failure because it's an industry without a standard.

Staff Buy-In

There is a valuable lesson here though. Staff buy-in is a huge piece of marketing online. It's one thing for you to say you're awesome as a brand, but for the people who work for you to say it is a huge bonus! However, you can't force them to post 2 or 3 times a week, or whatever other ludicrous ideas you have. Consumers are savvier than ever. What you need to do is give your staff reasons to post about your brand, make it easy for them, and reward their dedication.

Here are some key points to get you started:

  1. Get your staff together and ask them for ideas and a media shoot.

  2. Use those ideas in a constructive way.

  3. Advertise those ideas and use the media from the shoot, showing off your staff.

  4. Setup a group on each medium you advertise on with all of your staff. When you have something important to say, make that post easily accessible and ready for sharing.

  5. Each month, at your staff meeting, reward those who made whatever impact you'd like to measure.

  6. Repeat.

To give you an idea of the impact this can have, here's a bit of a case study.

Case Study: Facebook Ads

We represent a real estate brokerage with several dozens of agents. There is a month post that goes out on Facebook with a $1000 spend. The average reach of that post is usually about 218,000. The average interaction is roughly 600. This is with no staff buy-in. When 4 staff members are engaged on $1000 we got 322,049 reach and over 1000 interactions. With 12 staff members engaged on $1000 we got 518,001 reach and over 1500 interactions. See where I'm going with this?

Now, the goal is 200,000 reach and the max spend is $1000. If we had reliable buy-in we could cut that budget by $100 each month and still get the same reach. If all of the staff bought in that $1000 would become $0.

Tell me again why staff buy-in isn't near the top of your priority list?

If you need help with your ads or any digital marketing, let's talk.

Facebook Ads - The Right Way

Facebook Ads

We all have a love/hate relationship with Facebook's advertising platform. As it evolves, from a business standpoint the platform seems to get more convoluted. From a user standpoint, it seems to be more intrusive. What is a marketer to do when the number one ads platform online has lost its way?

Play smarter.

Just because Facebook offers up a new way to advertise doesn't mean you should take them up on it. I'm sure you've seen those video ads that interrupt the user experience. After convenience, the top reason people don't watch TV is related to intrusive commercials. Why Facebook ever thought it would be a good idea to give that same dated experience on a 21st-century platform is beyond me (money isn't everything) so why "do it" just because Facebook "offers it"?

Then you have their suggestions as to how an ad should be run. Who do you think those suggestions benefit? Time-and-time-again we have tried Facebook's ad suggestions against basic common sense in the interest of the business we represent only to find basic common sense winning. Of course, that's because we have an intimate understanding of the platform.

So, with that in mind, here are some tips to get your Facebook Ads on track straight from our cobweb minds and even the desks of Facebook.

1. Choose an objective that drives business value

Facebook offers a wide range of advertising objectives which can help brands reach their business goals. We no longer live in a world where Facebook ads success is only achieved by running 'Page Likes', 'Website Clicks', or 'Engagement' campaigns - in addition to these, Facebook now offers advertising objectives which include 'Awareness', 'Consideration', and 'Conversions'.

These categories each offer different ad units which are geared towards achieving specialized results.

Awareness

Objectives which generate interest in your product or service.

Brand Awareness - Reach people more likely to recall your ads and increase awareness for your brand

Reach - Show your ad to the maximum number of people in your audience.

Consideration

Objectives that get people to start thinking about your business, and look for more information about it.

Traffic - Increase the number of visits to your website

Engagement - Get more people to see and engage with your post or Page

App Installs - Send people to an app store where they can download your app

Video Views - Promote videos that show behind-the-scenes footage, product launches or customer stories to raise awareness about your brand

Lead Generation - Collect lead information, such as email addresses, from people interested in your business

Messages - Get more people to have conversations with your business to generate leads, drive transactions, answer questions or offer support.

Conversion

Objectives which encourage people interested in your business to purchase or use your product or service.

Conversions - Get more people to use your website, Facebook app, or mobile app. To track and measure conversions, use the Facebook pixel or app events

Catalog Sales - Show products from your catalog based on your target audience

Store Traffic - Promote multiple business locations to people who are nearby.

Don’t be overwhelmed. Yes, there are a lot of options, but choosing the right objective which is aligned to your broader strategy, and drives true value for your business, will make all the difference.

2. Using Placement Optimization

We often get asked which Facebook ad placements are the best. To clarify, a Facebook ad placement is anywhere that an ad is eligible to be served—this includes in the Facebook News Feed, Instagram feed, Stories, Audience Network, and even in Messenger.

According to Facebook, the best way to run campaigns is to activate all placements. This enables the Facebook Ad platform to optimize against which placements are achieving your desired objective at the most cost-effective rate. While we mostly agree, we don't recommend turning on Instagram placement. Instead, promote natively on Instagram. The boost feature is currently the best type of ad on Instagram because it also helps bolster your followers.

Facebook calls this 'Placement Optimization'. The logic here is that the more placements you use, the more data the Facebook Ad platform has to learn from. The more it can learn, the better your campaigns can perform.

But even though this is one of Facebook’s own recommended best practices for Facebook Ads, it is important to consider where you, as the advertiser, want your ads to be shown.

For example, ad placements on Audience Network won’t generate engagements. If you care about that metric, you might want to omit Audience Network from your efforts. We recommend going to market utilizing Placement Optimization and nurturing what performs the best.

3. Embrace Campaign Budget Optimization

Facebook's Campaign Budget Optimization process is a way of optimizing how a campaign uses budget across ad sets.

Typically, an advertiser would set budgets at the ad set level, however with Campaign Budget Optimization, Facebook will continuously and automatically find the best opportunities to achieve your designated objective across your ad sets, and prioritize budget to the ad sets that are performing best. This gives you less control as an advertiser but gives the system more control to use your budget efficiently.

The one thing to be cautious of here is that if there are campaigns that you need to get a certain level of attention, you will not want to use Campaign Budget Optimization. You'll want to set the budget at the ad set level to ensure visibility. Otherwise, this is one of those automation tools you can use with confidence.

4. Use mobile-first creative

It's no secret that social media has rapidly become a predominantly mobile-first experience. Keep this in mind when it comes to creating your Facebook ad campaigns.

You'll want to ensure that your ad creative is attractive, engaging and looks great on the small screen. Consider bright visuals for banners, and be sure that your video ads are under 60 seconds.

Focusing on mobile first creative will enable you to activate more users into your marketing funnels, at a more cost-effective rate. Make sure your ads look awesome on mobile.

5. Understand the value of broad vs specific targeting

In conversations with our partners at Facebook, this best practice surprised me personally.

In the past, the goal of Facebook ad targeting was to be as specific as possible. However, due to increased competition and the evolution of the Facebook Ad platform, being super specific in targeting can sometimes lead to more costly results.

When you go with super-specific targeting, you're telling the system that you want to serve ads to a certain amount of people no matter what. The Facebook ad system then goes after those people, and you, as the advertiser, are battling budgets for a presumably small amount of people who are also being targeted by other advertisers.

This can drive costs up, and Facebook doesn’t have much to learn from. When you go a little broader with your targeting, however, Facebook has more touch points to learn from, and will automatically optimize to serve your ad to the people in your target audience who are most likely to take your desired objective action.

While doing this, the system also looks for the best use of budget in an attempt to drive more results for lower cost. We recommend testing this for yourself - specific targeting always seems great, but consider going a little broader when trying to stretch your budget.

Conclusion

Some times Facebook is helpful and their automation can give you the insights you need to realize success. But, don't rely on Facebook's direction solely. Think about your business and what you want to achieve. Set it and forget it doesn't work.

I hope this has helped you in your pursuit of Facebook Ads supremacy. If you need help with your ads or any digital marketing, let’s talk.

Social Media Prediction: Less is More in 2019

How many brands do you follow on social media? Of those, how many do you actively check out on a regular basis? My guess is less than 10%. Sure, with Christmas just around the corner there is a small chance that number is bumped up a bit but ultimately 10% is a pretty average number. Marketers that I speak to on a regular basis are confused by this. Why would someone follow a brand only to end up ignoring it afterwards?

Burnout

I believe this is due to a burnout online. There's just too much information flying at anyone on any network to keep up. So, if a restaurant is advertising constantly why would anyone follow them religiously. Simply pumping out ads is not a way to endure yourself to the mass public. So what is a brand to do?

Don't Forget the Reasons People Buy Your Products

Will Smith's character in Collateral Beauty summed up advertising elegantly:

In advertising we are supposed to illuminate how a product or service will improve a person's life. That's the end game. So, our most commonly represented industries are restaurants, real estate, and amusement parks. What can we illuminate?

Restaurants: In general, restaurants unite people through food that they cannot typically make at home. They provide a social space to celebrate on occasion or life in general. Restaurants make people feel a sense of happiness through a full stomach, satisfying tastes, and being treated like they are important.

Real Estate: Again, in general, a real estate agent doesn't sell homes. They sell the future, a place to sleep, raise a family, and a reliable place to escape the pressures of the outside world. When someone buys from a real estate agent they are also buying a sense of accomplishment and belonging.

Amusement Parks: At their core, amusement parks are a place to get away from bills, personal issues, and other topics that dominate our daily lives. You're selling a mini-vacation from life; excitement, community, and adventure. In essence, generally speaking, amusement parks are selling a feeling of glee.

The Crux of This Post

So, what's the point of all this? Well, ask yourself before you put anything out on social media, are you illuminating your purpose in this world? If not, maybe you don't want to push publish on that random post you're putting out there.

Less is going to be more in 2019, so you're going to want to get more creative with your posts and never stop asking yourself that all important question. All you're good for in the eyes of the people is value; how do you bring value, and how do they get it? The second you can't provide value you're lost to them ... likely, forever.

Blog Your Way to Success: 5 Ways Blogging Helps You

Being in business is hard work, and I don't mean to add yet another item to your to do list but alas you should be blogging. Now, some of you might say that you've seen so many "experts" say blogging is a waste of time. Well, here's a real world example for you: We have 58 clients, and of those 11 came from conversations started by a blog. Full disclosure, we sell blogging services but it's only because we believe in the task itself based on our experience.

With a constant stream of new online and technological advancements, an online presence becomes increasingly important. Sure, you're on Facebook, you have thought about an app, there's your branding package, and of course you dust off that trusty LinkedIn account once in awhile. But, blogging can compliment all of your efforts and actually enhance them.

According to recent inbound marketing report, nearly 80% of companies that use blogging as a part of their marketing strategy reported acquiring customers through their blogging efforts. Additionally, 82% of businesses admit that blogging is critical to their business.
— http://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics

So let's talk benefits:

1. Exceptional Boost To Search Engine Optimization

All of the major search engines are looking for fresh, relevant content. Blogging is one of the most straightforward and inexpensive methods for offering this content. When a business creates blog posts consistently, they are constantly providing Google, Bing, and the others with fresh content to index. This is also an opportunity for businesses to insert those relevant keywords that consumers will use to search for the types of products or services that the business offers.

2. Develop And Strengthen Relationships With New & Existing Customers

Customer engagement is an immensely important element of online marketing and branding. Blogging provides the opportunity for you to connect with your existing and potential customers. Blogging is a good way to build trust with your target audience through high quality content that they find relevant. With an active comment section, you will also be able to follow the visitors' responses to your posts, and you will be able to respond directly to their comments, which is huge in building trust and relationships.

3. Establish Your Business As An Industry Leader

It doesn't matter how small your business is, blogging is a good way for your business to build trust and establish clout in your industry by providing content that will be viewed as valuable, expert information. In time, posting blogs that are helpful and informative on a regular basis can make you the "go to" resource in your particular niche within the industry, subsequently increasing leads and conversion rates.

4. Connect People To Your Brand

Brand awareness is an immensely important element of marketing and blog posting will allow you to show your followers a personal side of your business that existing and perspective customers will not readily recognize with outbound marketing mechanisms and techniques. Blogging will give others a lucid sense of the corporate standards, business character, vision and the personality of your company.

5. Create Opportunities For Sharing

One of the most powerful benefits of blogging is the opportunity it creates for others to share the link to your blog, creating the potential for viral traffic and exponential market growth. With so many different sharing platforms available, visitors can share the direct link to the blog, tweet it, or email it to a friend. This is the epitome of free marketing.

If you are interested in increasing your online exposure, while establishing yourself as an expert in your industry, then you will definitely want to take advantage of blogging as a marketing strategy. Just blog, and if you need help, let's talk.

Top 5 Digital Marketing Myths of 2018 (So Far)

In an industry as new as digital marketing there are bound to be some fallacies portrayed as truth. Some are routed in some sort of truth, others are laughable at best. Tap into the truth right here, right now with Sync Digital Solutions!

01. My Following Count Should Stay Low

I know a lot of business owners that believe they have should have many more followers than they are following. I hate to break it to you but unless you have a huge brand or are a celebrity, that's just not going to happen. You should be aggressive in your network growth strategies to get your name out there. Eventually, you might be able to eclipse your following with thousands more followers but everyone has to start somewhere.

PRO TIP: Keep your following equal to or less than your followers and don't sweat these types of details. There's no business advantage to keeping your following low.

02. No Website Needed

I've heard that all you need is a Facebook page, and websites are a thing of the past. Nay! Think of your website as your storefront or virtual brick and mortar business; or to put it another way, your website provides the details a customer probably needs to make a purchasing decision.

PRO TIP: Your website should be where all information flows (social, SEO, ads, etc). Build landing pages, get comprehensive, and take your digital marketing seriously.

03. Digital Marketing Doesn't Work for B2B

Well, Sync Digital Solutions got our start on LinkedIn. Of our first 10 B2B clients, 8 came from social media. Point made?

PRO TIP: Digital Marketing is like any other form of advertising, if you can find a natural fit for your brand in a way that stands out, rock on!

04. Mobile Users Don't Convert

2004 called and they want their stereotype back! At one point, mobile users didn't convert because they weren't as comfortable on mobile as they are today. Now, on most days more people are surfing and buying on mobile than desktop so please, if you're going to attempt to win the internet ... give mobile some serious thought.

PRO TIP: If you want to reach mobile users during their purchase decision, make sure that you optimize all platforms for mobile—especially your website.

05. Landing Pages are a Waste

I had a business owner argue that landing pages are just a way for agencies to charge more. In reality, landing pages are a way of customizing your message and tracking the successes of various campaigns. You need landing pages, or you'll waste a lot of money on campaigns you won't be able to interpret.

PRO TIP: Do not run ads without landing pages!

As always, if you need help with your digital marketing, reach out. We'd love to talk to you about getting ROI out of online.

The Pros vs The Fair-Weather Agencies

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The Pros vs The Fair-Weather Agencies

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So, you're thinking of having a website developed, potentially get onto social media, and you're looking for information about this thing you keep hearing about; SEO. The next step is to meet with "pros" about how you can implement these changes in your business. So, you take some meetings. Perhaps you Google "digital marketing agency" or you go old school and ask around. Eventually you get a list of 3 to 5 agencies and freelancers you'd like to meet with. Now what?

We have come up with a list of 5 things you should pay attention to when taking meetings with agencies and freelancers. These are important, because they will weed out the pros from the fair-weather marketers.

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01. Websites: Show Me Some Samples

Whomever you are talking to should be able to show you samples of desktop and mobile sites on the spot. Ask for 5 samples of various designs. Those designs should include; informational, graphical, advanced coding, mobile adaptation, and eCommerce. Now perhaps you're wondering why you'd want to see all 5 samples when you don't need a few of them. This is a sure shot way to see how experienced the website developer is. If they have samples of all 5 chances are they have the experience necessary to move forward.

02. SEO

Here is where a lot of agencies and freelancers can prove their honesty. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It's the art and science of ranking high on search engines like Google. When you meet with someone about SEO you should ask them a few key questions:

  • Who have you worked with, and can you show me their rankings?
  • How do you charge? TIP: SEO should not be charged monthly. Any SEO company in 2018 and beyond that knows what they are doing should charge based on the goals and tasks regardless of how long they take. Don't get trapped into monthly SEO charges.
  • What is the most powerful tool in your SEO toolkit? Sync's is the execution of connecting through .EDU sites.
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03. Ads

Many of the most popular platforms have become pay-to-play environments. Any online strategy needs to involve an ads campaign. Be weary of anyone that says otherwise. There are exceptions with small tasks but if your strategy is broad then ads need to be a part of the plan. Make sure you are billed directly for your ads. This way you can guarantee that the marketer is not taking points on your ads that you haven't agreed to. Here's another great test for your marketer. Ask for an honest assessment of when you can expect to see results from ads campaigns. TIP: It won't be right away. The marketer needs to do several tests to figure out optimal ad output. Without those tests you WILL spend money unnecessarily.

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04. Social Media Networks

Social Media Management or SMM is a juggernaut job. A total strategy involves content, ads, multimedia, network growth, interaction management, and analytics. Once again, ask for samples. There should be 5 to 8 samples given for various networks. Ask what the goals for each network is, and which you should be involved in. Find out exact parameters for each of the tasks and also ask why. Lastly, you need to find out how the SMM strategies will fit seamlessly with your existing offline measures.

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05. Analytics/Reporting

Take a look at the reporting structure of the marketer. Ask for custom elements if something is important to you. Also, establish frequency. Reporting more than once per month is likely ineffective and micro-managing, but any less than once per month and you'll be in danger of not understanding where you sit with your efforts.

Which Social Network is Right for My Business?

Social Networks

One of the most common questions I get when speaking to potential clients is, "Which social network is right for my business?" It's a legitimate question, because if left unanswered, you could burn yourself out just trying to keep up with your marketing. As a business owner, you have a huge to do list, and no time to waste with Social Media Management that doesn't work for you.

With that, I present my quick and dirty explanation of the various social networks.

Facebook

Your business should be on Facebook, period. Not only do they have the best ads platform, but they're also the number one network when it comes to reaching a wide range of ages. Presence on Facebook is also good for SEO. I'm going to state this clearly though; do not jump on Facebook until you have an ad budget to spend. You will not reach the people necessary to impact your business without at least a few hundred to spend on boosts (local biz), or a few thousand (for larger biz).

Twitter

This is the network you have to be most active on to be effective. I mean, really active. Post and reply, post and reply. It's a constant cycle. Twitter's relevance has fallen in the last 18 months, and continues to. I recommend staying away from Twitter unless you know you can be active, you have a solid network growth strategy, and tons of content. The companies that do the best on Twitter are media outlets and celebrity brands. If you're neither, you can pass on Twitter and place that focus elsewhere.

Instagram

Are you trying to reach anyone between the ages of 13 - 38? If so, get on Instagram. The community is active, the feed is still pretty fair for everyone, and the network growth strategies that have come up are easier to implement than with Twitter. Make sure you get creative, and marry your personal + professional voice. No one wants blatant advertising on Insta.

Pinterest

Want to reach women? Use Pinterest. It's really that simple.

LinkedIn

The professional Facebook has just released a really annoying update, but it's still the best place for B2B interactions, and we find the interaction rates to be stellar. Don't spam though. Simply network, and offer through conversation. You'll generate leads if you have a strategy.

Google+

Don't look at Google+ as a social network any longer. It's an SEO platform. You post and stay relevant to boost your rankings, not to engage with others.

Flickr + Tumblr

If you have the time to create stellar long-form content, or you have a business that falls under the category of "the arts", then you should look at Flickr and Tumblr. Otherwise, don't bother with these platforms.

There you have it. I did say this post would be quick and dirty; no need to bury you in stats.

Need help with Social Media Management? Let me know.