Category Archives: Social Media

How “Tour the States” Was Made and Went Viral

In June 2014, Angie Seaman, E-Commerce Manager for Marbles: The Brain Store, shared with an IRCE video workshop audience how Marbles: The Brain Store’s Tour the States video was made and successfully went viral with over 2,760,519 hits and counting.

“That was basically a very low-tech solution to making a video.  We had the cartoonist actually come into the office, get a big white piece of paper, and he’s only holding a marker. It took him about a week to get the thing done and the video.  We were crossing our fingers the whole time that he wouldn’t make a mistake. We did have a couple things that we had to fix, but it wasn’t too bad and it took our video director about two weeks to edit all of the footage together and get it synced up with music.  It turned out great and was well worth it for us.”

As a parent who had to help a fifth grader memorize the states and capitals in the fall of 2013, I can tell you that there was nothing like it on You Tube at the time.  The song is catchy and it not only highlighted the states, but also the capitals in their locations, which was surprisingly unique for You Tube videos about states and capitals.  Marbles: The Brain Store found a need and fulfilled it for kids (and parents).

“It <the video> introduced The Brain Store as an authority on the product, which is important because these are people who don’t know our brand.  It makes customers more comfortable to transact with us and we’ve seen our conversion rate increase over time. Part of it has to do with video.”

To make a low-budget video, Seaman suggests budgeting time to experiment, picking a room with good acoustics, and finding talent who can do it all.  She says that you can get going with video for less than $1000.

“It took us a year and a half or so to really get everything.  We saw results right away, but our conversion rate has increased and actually doubled every year. Part of it has to do with other things we’re doing, but I think a lot of it has to do with video.”

From lighting and sound to editing and effects, how is your company using video this year?

~Jean at My Web Writers

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Filed under Capturing Audience, Conferences, Television Script Writing, Video Production, YouTube

Managing Brand-Consumer Relationships via Social Media, A Conversation with Miami University’s Dr. Glenn Platt

Image courtesy of @GlennPlatt

Social media relationships between brands and customers are connected to an important shift in marketing, putting word of mouth in the digital sphere and bringing brands into the conversation. According to Dr. Glenn Platt, professor of marketing and co-director of the Interactive Media Studies Program at Miami University, this change puts the focus on value and utility. He notes, “marketers are no longer in the job of selling the sizzle, but rather are about showing how there is value in that product. If you use this product it solves this problem. It makes your life better.” Social media helps facilitate that message by allowing customers and brands to connect with each other about that utility or value.

Developing the Relationship

Platt asserts that there are three important parts of a successful social media campaign—creating personal connections with the customer, showing them the utility of the product, and addressing customer service concerns. According to Platt, social media marketing is all about communicating what is best and most valuable about your brand in a way that connects with the customer’s life. “Your job is not to convince people that coffee cures cancer…Your job is to say ‘This is a really delicious cup of coffee.’ This is what it is and this is why it’s great” Platt says. “Marketers get kind of a bad rap for trying to convince people of things that are untrue, but for the social media marketer–that isn’t their job at all. Their job is to find the things that are most true about the brand and elevate them.”

A key facet of building the personal connection is addressing customer concerns. While there are plenty of stories about people who didn’t realize they were on their personal account and sent out inappropriate tweets, according to Platt, “Classic mistakes for social media marketers are not responding to your customers, responding poorly or defensively, not being authentic, or trying to mislead people.”

He says that social media has “almost become a 1-800 line for the brand” and in order to develop a strong relationship between customers and your brand, as well as a trustworthy presence in social media, it’s important to respond to your customers in a timely, helpful, and sincere manner.

Using the Right Platform

In addressing those customer concerns, not all platforms are equally useful. A visit to the Facebook page for the lifestyle subscription service Birchbox historically showed a litany of customer complaints and referral codes to a competing brand. While Birchbox didn’t delete any comments and quickly addressed them, their brand-related posts often have been overshadowed by complaints.

Platt suggests that Facebook is not a great platform for consumer-brand relationships because of the chronological nature of the site. In order to keep relevant posts fresher on the page, brands have to be selective about what gets posted: “Once you know that a company deletes Facebook posts you don’t trust them. It’s just game over. You can’t delete stuff, but you want to delete stuff.” He suggests that brands like Birchbox move customer concerns to a specific tab and publicly post that policy, as well as in a response to any posts not filtered under the tab function. A better move, however, would be to address customer service issues on Twitter. Platt notes that successful brands such as Best Buy and Comcast already have multiple Twitter accounts, some designated just for customer issues. “It’s not in their face, but it’s public, which is the important part,” he says. “You want people to say, ‘Look, I’m owning all my problems. I’m dealing with them. Here you can see I’ve solved problems and I’m not trying to push things under the rug.”

Connecting with Influencers

Aside from helpfully addressing customer concerns, to make the most of your efforts on social media, it is important to get the attention of influencers, the people who will help get your posts and your brand seen by more people. As explained by Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point, there are different types of influencers, too. The first type of influencer is an expert, someone who contacts and friends turn to for their expertise on a particular topic. The second type is a curator or maven, a person who finds and shares interesting products, articles, etc. and tends to accumulate a lot of information. The third kind of influencer is the connector, a people’s person who is good at connecting people to each other. For example, if you have a question, a connector might not know the answer, but probably knows someone who does and would send you his or her way.

Platt says that influencers can be identified through social media by looking at the ripple effects of posts and retweets, tracking how information spreads throughout a social network: “Some people look to social media influencers to see how large their networks are…People with more followers are probably going to have more influence than people with fewer followers.” An influencer can be a big name celebrity or expert or someone with a smaller, more local network, as long as their activity makes ripples in social media activity. Platt argues that while people with big social networks may have more reach, because there are anthropological studies that suggest that a community can only really have 150 members, it is important not to neglect influential people in smaller more local communities. For example, he points out that in his local community there is a Facebook group for mothers and certain members of that group have a lot of influence. When they post events or activities, their posts tend to have a big, tangible impact in the community.

There are a number of ways to get the attention of influencers on social media, from direct messages to sending samples or products. Because bloggers are required to disclose if they have been given a free product for review, however, Platt suggests that more subtle methods may be more effective. “People immediately are not going to trust it as much when they see that [free products were supplied],” he says, “even if it is an honest post.”

Instead, Platt thinks an effective method of getting influencers’ attention is communicating to them how your product or brand is valuable to them or their community: “The trick with influencers is to find those things that are true about your brand and find a way to get them in front of them. Like someone who’s an influencer in the mommy group here in Oxford, they genuinely would be grateful to know if there’s a kids eat free day at Bob Evans.[…]And so simply reach out and let them know that, finding ways to just make them aware, not pushing it, not making it look like you’re bribing them.”

The bottom line in creating a solid social media relationship is cultivating a trustworthy presence through honest answers to customer concerns and product marketing that meets customers where they are, showing how your product or page adds value to their experiences.  ~Kasey

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Filed under Facebook, Social Media, Twitter

Reader Comments: How to Get to Real Insights (An Interview with Miami University’s, David Wells)

Image courtesy of Lane Memorial Library in Hampton, NH

In 1690, Benjamin Harris edited a paper that only lasted for one issue before it was shut down by the colonial authorities. Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick filled only three of its four pages so that readers could write their comments and share the paper with another reader, creating a written discussion of the paper’s stories. Miami University journalism instructor, David Wells, uses this anecdote to explain how social networking is not a new phenomenon. He asserts that each technological advance in journalism from moving type to the iPhone serves to “get the news out faster and it’s made it possible to reach a wider audience. The wider the audience and the faster you get it out there the more interaction occurs with it.”

If you write in or manage an online space these days, chances are reader comments are either the bane of your existences or a boost to your traffic. Or maybe a bit of both. While readers discussing your writing can help the story grow or the piece go viral, managing online traffic and comments can prove difficult.

Managing Online Comments

Wells was the Editorial Page editor at the Cincinnati Enquirer from 1999-2009, a period when many newspapers started to make the transition to the online platforms. In the transition, the paper focused on creating a “community conversation” and decided that historically the Editorial pages were where that had happened via letters to the editor. The team decided to publish letters to the editor online. As with the traditional print-based letters to the editor, the online letter to the editor page required people to include their real names and which neighborhood of the city they were from. Some people at the paper thought the requirement would deter submissions, but the paper received up to 100 letters a day, showing that people were as willing to include their names in the online forum as they were in the printed paper. Wells argues, “If people were going to put their names on it they’re going to be more responsible about it than they would be otherwise. And people do want to have their voice and speak up and they’re glad to have the forum.”

Monitoring the online comments to other stories proved more complicated. Not only were there far more comments to comb through, but with the ability to post anonymously, people would write such hateful things that some local public figures started to decline being interviewed by the paper. To Wells, the anonymity of online comments is linked to the likelihood that people will post inflammatory or untrue statements. “I think the anonymity of the comment is a bad thing,” he says. “The excuse is always that people will get in trouble because the boss will find out they differ in political views. You know what, people need to be responsible for what they say. There is such a thing as free speech and the boss isn’t supposed to be able to fire you.”

Many publications share Wells’s views and many, such as the HuffingtonPost, are starting to require the use of Facebook accounts to post online comments. Further, a recent study published in Journalism Practice found that there was a direct correlation between anonymity and “uncivil” comments. Specifically, when online newspapers allowed readers to make anonymous comments, 53% of the comments made were uncivil or inflammatory. That rate dropped to 29% when the user interface required the reader’s real name or a link to their Facebook account.

Crowd-Sourcing and Engaging Reader Response

Wells notes, however, that when flagging and removing offensive comments, it is still important to listen to the questions and the input of the readers. He recounts going into meetings and asking, “This story that the police reporter wrote got 150 comments. Did you read any of those comments? There are a couple of comments in here that are pretty interesting that suggest this is similar to some other crime. Have we checked that out? That’s a tip.” Reporters would tell him they didn’t have time to read all the comments and Wells would reply, “You don’t have time not to.” He asserts that reader comments provide a space for crowd sourcing to help a story develop: “You will find out new information which you should turn around and use to enrich your own reporting, just like if you heard it as a tip over at the police station.”

Drawing In Readers

Wells points out another way that reader interaction and digital readership is affecting writing: the pay wall. In an effort to counter financial losses after content moved from print to online, many publications have instituted a pay wall, allowing the reader to only read a portion of the story, or a limited number of stories before requiring a paid subscription. According to Wells, the pay wall can put the writer in a tricky situation. “What’s your role as a journalist?” he asks. “Is it just to provide teasers to get someone to buy a subscription so they can read your whole story?” Wells, like many instructors, teaches his students to get the news up top so that “if you just read the lead you should get the gist of what the story’s about.”

Tips for Web Writers

What does this dynamic mean for web writers? Careful management of online comments, flagging inappropriate or libelous comments is important, but listening to readers’ points also matters. Further, as more online publications move to draw readers into stories through sensationalist headlines or building a pay-walls, there are important decisions to be made about the integrity of your writing and how you are addressing your audience.

Know what your approach to reader interaction and user comments will be and communicate this vision to stakeholders. How will you set the tone without censoring your audience? How will you draw readers in without sacrificing the quality of your writing?

~Kasey

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Capturing Audience, Reputation Management, Social Media

Writing for Your Audience: How to Keep Them Engaged While Still Selling

How Social Media Holds the Keys to Successful Business Writing

NewspaperAccording to The State of the News Media: 2013 Report by The Pew Research Center, “Newspaper website audiences grew 3 percent as measured by unique visitors from November 2011 to November 2012. However, total visits decreased almost 5 percent in the same time period.” These numbers point out an interesting phenomena occurring in media as consumers are transitioning their readership to online channels, while spending less time reading the news than they did in the past.

So as a writer, how do you keep your audience engaged, especially when your end goal is to sell your product? What are the emerging trends in business writing sales and how can you help stay abreast of the latest writing techniques needed to make a sale? Believe it or not, social media may hold the insider’s tips into keeping your audience engaged.

Keep it Short and Simple

The shear metrics behind the Twitter website should demonstrate consumer’s demand for short and to-the-point information consumption. According to the company’s website, average monthly users soared from 100 million in 2011 to 255 million currently. This represents a 155 percent increase in just three years. Compared to the 3 percent growth for newspaper website audiences, it’s clear to see Twitter has the emerging market cornered.

That said; how can you capture audiences using the same characteristics of Twitter? Well for starters, consider keeping messages short, simple, and to the point. Twitter has a 140-character limit for a reason; people don’t have the time or attention span to read anything longer. Imagine how successful your next media ad text would be if you sold every key benefit within the first 140 characters. Or, what if you wrote a sales blog that got to the point in three paragraphs instead of seven? While short and sweet definitely has its place, the theory of “less is more” cannot be lost when it comes to writing to sell.

Visual Interest Is Crucial

Dog Watching ButterflyImagery is a necessary part of any successful business writing piece. In fact, imagery, be it a company logo, creative photo to accompany your advertisement, or even a fun video to go along side your blog, can be the difference between capturing an attentive audience or receiving a high website click through rate before your readers actually absorb any of your content. For example, organizations such as the Business Marketing Organization are recognizing the value of using up-to-date, intriguing visuals, and are updating their brand imagery accordingly.

Social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest provide leading examples of the use of effective imagery which brands should be striving for. True-to-life, action shots of average people in real life settings are the business imagery that will resonate in the future. Gone are the days of staged portraits with professional actors who know nothing about your product. Looking for great imagery to accompany your business writing piece? Try photographing some of your actual clients using your product in a real-life setting. Or, use customer submitted photos. If you think it would get a “Like” on Instagram or a Pin on Pinterest, it’s probably a solid image.

Relationship Building Is a Necessary Step

NotebookYour business writing piece should speak to your audience in a way they can relate to. Just like your Facebook followers, users who regularly visit your business blog or look for your advertisements will expect a certain caliber and stream of content from you. For example, the content created on a Facebook page for a local rock band would be much different than the Facebook content created for the corner garden and nursery supply store. Keep in mind the audience you are speaking to about your business just like you would your Facebook page:

  • What will my friends/family/followers want to know about this product or service?
  • Will this information actually interest them?
  • Have I already talked about this idea in the recent past?

Likewise, make your business writing a two-way conversation. While this specifically applies to blogs, it is crucial that your audience feels like you are talking with them, not at them. Solicit commentary from your audience. Welcome guest bloggers. Make your writing a conversational piece verses simply just a straight sales pitch. The more social engagement you can bring into your piece, the stronger your final sales results will be.

~ Katie

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Filed under Audience, Capturing Audience, Content, Content Marketing, Sales, Social Media, Technical Writing, The Writing Process