3 Common myths about social media engagement

Social media engagement is much like teenage sex. Everyone is talking about it yet only  a few are really doing it.

Last week I've come across an interesting tip by Jeff Bulas, shared by many social media influencers. 

One rule of thumb is 80% of your updates should be about engagement. 20% are posts that are selling.

A great tip that depends on how you define engagement. I decided to ask and got no answer. Which brings me to myth number one.

1. Social media engagement equals including others in your posts.

It takes two to tango. If the interest is only on one side, you can still dance, but it won't be tango. 

Real engagement on social is based on conversations and those are based on relationship. And for the relationships, I guess we all know how they do and don't work.  Listening and responding are key.

If all you do is tag people while pushing your messages, then you probably won't get very far. And you definitely won't do any real engagement.

2. Social media engagement is all about online.

Though online is a very important part, real engagement happens when you connect online with offline. This depends on your target audience, but no real influence can be built just by sending out tweets. 

Social media can play a great role in supporting you with your outreach, but it can't replace face to face conversations, networking efforts and real life help. 

3. The success of your social media engagement should be measured in the number of RT's, mentions etc.

Your social media strategy needs to be driven by a purpose deeper than getting a certain number of followers, RT's and mentioned by influencers. For the purpose of it is not to stand alone but to help you reach your goals.

Did social help get you closer to what you want? 

If your only ROI is a number of RT's and mentions, then it's maybe time to reconsider your strategy so that brings more tangible results.

Corporate comms: where will we go?

What's more likely - that you will send a letter of a complaint via snail mail or that you'll use online lingo in real life?

Digital has radically changed how we communicate. It has given more power and visibility to the individual but at the same time also made people more vulnerable. It's slightly different on the corporate site.

Digital provided companies with access to valuable customer data and many useful tools to that can help increase the visibility of their brands. At the same time, it has created internal division between online and offline communications. Companies often struggle to see and measure the value that digital communications bring to their business.

So how to we move on from here?

1. Companies will change the way they perceive internal communications.

Instead of top-down information sharing, smart business will invest their people and build strong internal ambassadorship. The discussion will shift away from newsletters and online communities to increasing employee ownership and their identification with the company's values and way of work. This requires a shift in thinking and management.

Brands live and die with their reputation and nothing promotes a brand better than enthusiastic employees who are proud about what they do and want to share it with others. Leaving Amazon's ethical challenges aside, it was an employee Nick Ciubotariu, who rescued company's salvaged reputation after the exposure in NYT.

2. The way we tell stories will change and become more audience focused.

Not only is this the best way to build strong presence and influence online and offline. It's a necessary step to move forward from broadcasting messages to creating meaningful experiences for the customers.

To do so, storytelling needs to shift from treating the customers as end goals and instead include them in all steps of the storytelling. User generated content will become even more prominent.

Companies will invest more resources in monitoring and share interactive stories that travel across different channels and devices.

3. Boundaries between digital and analogue will become even more blurred.

The truth is, digital can help bring corporate communications to the next level, as long as its part of integrated communications. As much as some would like to bury offline communications, they're still an essential part of any good communication strategy.

It might even be that old fashioned communication tools will help bring back some of the charm that was lost with the wave of online communities. After all, how long has it been since you've received a friendly personal letter (not a promo commercial) from your favourite restaurant?

What do you think will drive the future of corporate communications? 

Being social

It's fairly easy to get started on social media, yet brands still struggle to be social. They want visibility, engagement and they want their efforts to pay off.

So how do you get people to say what you want?

You don't.

Online relationships work pretty much the same as offline. It takes time and effort to build them and they won't last without a real commitment. The best you can do is provide meaningful experiences for your audience. 

It boils down to three things.

1. Take the time

There are no shortcuts and no tools will compensate for actual human outreach. You can schedule posts, curate content, but when it comes down to social, you need to take time. This means putting audience's needs before your marketing messages.

If you're only interested in being heard but not listen, why should people care?
 
2. Be useful

Many brands wrongly assume their audience is automatically interested in what they have to say. This is why much of corporate communications sounds like broadcasting.

"Check out our new product! Guess, what, we won an award! Oh, and did you check our latest blog?"

It’s like that guy you met at the party who wouldn’t stop talking about himself. Sooner or later, everyone gets tired and stops listening. You don’t want to be him.

Without listening, any communication is destined to fail.

3. Being social

While brands wait to get action at their nicely designed social media doorsteps, they're missing out on important conversations that are happening elsewhere.

You can't always make people come to your party. Sometimes you can also join theirs.

Social is more than just online chatting  or promoting your brand. Any social tool is meaningless if turned into an automatized marketing machine. 

It's not about being social, it's about being human.

And then there were none

You run an old board game cafe. It's a bit scruffy and needs work, but you can't afford it. So next time people come to play board games, you ask them to help you repaint a wall.

You ignore the rolling eyes and the sighs. Some people leave. So what, others will come.

The wall is painted, but there's more to be done. So again, people come to play games, you ask them to help. More people leave, you shrug your shoulders.  Very soon your cafe will be fresh and shiny and then others will come.

After a month fewer people come, but you manage to repaint all the walls, polish the bar and replace the windows. You announce a big party and invite everyone to come. The balloons are ready, the music is playing and doors are open, yet the cafe remains empty.

A lot has changed in advertising in the past 10 years yet we are asked to tolerate ads we don't want. In our newspapers, mail, on the phone, social media channels in the cinema and even on the toilet. No matter where you hide, you can't escape the ads. So you put up your stickers and you block.

Interrupting marketing doesn't work. It's time to bury its stinking corps and never look back.

It's time to stop moaning about the loss of profits because of ad-blocking and find a way to market quality products in a non-intrusive engaging way. Want more customers? Include them in the process and find a better solution.

It might be challenging to find what exactly works, but at least you know that it's not ads.

I initially wrote this post for LinkedIn Pulse.

Key questions for every campaigning

There are marketing writers and there is Seth Godin. 

His quesitons for every marketing challenge are true for every campaign or communication plan, so I decided to share them. 

It's hard to fail when you begin your journey with thinking about your audience.

WHO are you trying to reach? (If the answer is 'everyone', start over.)

HOW will they become aware of what you have to offer?

WHAT story are you telling/living/spreading?

DOES that story resonate with the worldview these people already have? (What do they believe? What do they want?)

WHERE is the fear that prevents action?

WHEN do you expect people to take action? If the answer is 'now', what keeps people from saying, 'later'? It's safer that way.

WHY? What will these people tell their friends?

How not to present

Do not do any research about who you're presenting to. 

Arrive 20 minutes late and ask your audience who they are and what their business is about.

Be arrogant and condescending. 

Give limited information and skip the details.  Use outdated information and hope no one will notice.

Oversimplify as much as you can. If you don't know an answer, make it up. 

Frequently repeat that the audience should buy your product.

Criticize other products.

If someone challenges your arguments, ignore them and move on.

This might read as a joke. It's a  short summary of a presentation done by a partner of a major social network. 

A good reputation is tough to get yet easy to lose. It pays off bringing on board people who will help you maintain it. 

Have you?

A headache we learn to ignore

Ever met someone who was absolutely crazy about ads and didn't work in the advertising? To most people, ads are just an unpleasant interruption. Like a headache. 

The sad truth is we can't avoid ads. Even if they are blocked, ads will find their way back into our mailbox, newspaper, cinema, hospitals, and toilets. There is no such thing as an "International day without advertising" or a fundamental right to an ad-free space. Ads seem to be here to stay.

But sometimes we get to choose the kind of ads we would prefer to see. More often this choice is made for us, based on sex, age, language and many other things that don't necessarily say much about who we are. If you're a woman, this means you will get many "offers" to help you lose weight and buy cosmetics.

While more conscious marketers are practicing permission marketing, most of the others are trying to invent new ways to sneak ads into our life. They're disguised as articles, recommendations in health sections or fake app reviews. It's a whole new gray area calling for new regulations.

One thing I really miss in the whole ad story is selective blocking  that would enable you to block racist, sexist and offensive ads.

How long before there is an app for that?


Tips and tricks for a great brainstorming session

When was the last time you and few others were summoned into a meeting room and asked to come up with good ideas?

Unsurprisingly, many people sigh when they hear the word brainstorming. Still, it stays a popular method for generating ideas. And while good ideas might hide in dark places, here are a few tips and tricks on how to lure them out with a great brainstorming session.

1. People

If you want diverse and creative ideas, then bring together people with different profiles and ways of thinking.

2. Timing

We are generally more creative before the daily routine takes over, so morning is the ideal time for your brainstorm. Later in the day people will need more time to switch from daily routine to creative mode, so make sure you include a longer warming up period. Avoid evening brainstorming altogether.

3. Space

Space can help inspire great ideas. As a rule meeting rooms are not the most exciting place, but luckily you can change this. Choose some topic-related images and put them on the wall. Ambient background music during the brainstorm is generally more inspiring than the silence. Make sure to provide a poster with basic information such as goals and tasks – this way they won’t get lost in translation.

4. Facilitation

Every brainstorm needs a facilitator who takes care of the process. He/she introduces the activity and prepares the space and materials. The facilitator leads the process but doesn’t take part in generating ideas.

5. Warming up

What is true for sports is also true for creativity – we perform better when properly warmed up. Ideally, you will want short and fun activities that wake up the brain, like two or three of Edward de Bono’s exercises (check out his book: How to have creative ideas). My favorite de Bono exercise is composing a story out of random words: choose four random words out of the table and use them in a story.


My second favorite is not de Bono’s: It’s the birthday of a good friend of yours and you forgot to get a present. You’re on your way to his/her house, all the shops are closed, and all, you find in your pocket, is a paperclip. You have 5 minutes to turn it into a present.If your brainstorming session is in the afternoon, you might want to do an energizer: a short game that involves some physical exercise.

6. First create, then evaluate

A human brain is an amazing tool with few limitations. One of them is that it can’t switch between creative to evaluative mode. This means you will end up with less or worse ideas if you judge how good/bad they are. A general rule for brainstorming is: every idea is a good idea. The facilitator should always remind people of this before they start – to make sure everything is put on the table. There will be enough time to sort and evaluate the ideas after you’ve collected them.

And the last but not the least – take your brainstorming seriously but don’t make it serious. Humor inspires creativity, so have some fun while you’re at it!

I originally wrote and published this blog post on ZN blog.

Customer service

There's something about hotel rooms, that make them seem generic and impersonal. But few months ago I stayed at a hotel, that change this perception.

The staff was friendly and not only cooled the wine bottle, we brought with us, but also gave us nice glasses. After our stay, they'd send me the email to thank for the visit and ask for my feedback. The email was friendly and human and signed by a person.

I answered it and soon got a reply, thanking me for the feedback and offering a discount for my next stay with them. 

I've stayed at many hotels, but this is the first one that seemed different, friendly, personal.

That's customer service. It distinguishes really great companies from those, who think they are great.

Can you afford to neglect it if you have a really great product?

Think of your company as a restaurant. Would there be someone to welcome people when they come in? Would they get free appetizers while they wait for their order? Would you staff seem friendly or would they give the impression they'd rather be anywhere else?

What would happen if they complained?

The truth is, no one can't afford a poor customer service. Not when the word of mouth is the most valued form of advertising.

Broadcasting vs. discussing

Since companies have discovered the power of online communications, they're more and more in favour of "having a discussion" with their audience. But what does that really mean?

To most, it seems, it means they talk at their audience and use the web as an additional marketing channel. They push polished messages, promote their brands and occasionally write a comment. They don't ask, they don't listen, they don't engage with their audience.

That's not a discussion - it's a speech. A shiny broadcast with all the right messages but no impact.

Online discussions aren't much different than those offline. Take the time to listen. Make the effort to hear. But most of all, show that you care.