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How long before brands completely abandon Twitter?

Before you click away, I encourage you to read on. Because this isn’t one of those typical “Twitter is dead” posts.

It’s more like “Will Twitter be dead to businesses within 2 years”-type posts.

Because, I’m starting to believe it might.

Twitter death

Brands have long (well, as least for the last 7-8 years) relied on Twitter as a customer service tool and a brand management tool. And, in spots, it’s worked for some companies.

But recently I’ve started to think differently. It started when I began a number of research projects for a few of my clients. When looking over competing brands’ Twitter accounts I noticed a trend: Very few of them were responding to any tweets. And I mean ANY. I realize this doesn’t mean ALL companies are ignoring customer feedback on Twitter. But, I’ve anecdotally noticed it more and more recently.

So, that got me thinking: Could Twitter legitimately go away as a company social media tool within two years?

I think so. And here are five big reasons why:

1: It’s increasingly not a safe place for users

Just ask any celebrity or athlete. Increasingly, Twitter has become a place where trolls and hate groups surface to dole out their tirades. Some celebs have even bowed out. Just follow any trending hash tag for 10 minutes–I liken it to the old comment sections in digital newspapers (just one troll after another). It’s not a pretty place anymore. It’s not the same Twitter we know from 2009. Not even close. And, if that’s the case, why would brands want to interact there?

2: It’s not an easy place for new users

According to a recent eMarketer report, Twitter growth is stagnating. I know I’m not breaking big news there, but Twitter has flattened out the last couple years. And, many speculate that the reason new users aren’t flocking to Twitter is because it’s tougher to use and understand. Twitter has never really overcome this obstacle–because, let’s face it, it’s always been an obstacle (remember those “I don’t get it” statements in 2008–they’re still happening). If Twitter isn’t attracting new users, it’s not growing. And what brand wants to invest time in a platform that’s not growing?

3: It’s not nearly the social ad darling Facebook is.

Sure, Twitter has a broad smattering of advertising options. It offers much of the same functionality Facebook does, in fact. But, the results are often less than what Facebook offers. Especially when it comes to driving traffic (see below) and CPC. I know there are certainly brands who have seen success with Twitter advertising, but I have to think the lion’s share of brands have seen much more success with Facebook and Instagram than Twitter. And, as social media progresses further and further toward a pay-for-play model, social advertising is everything.

4: It’s not nearly the engagement tool it once was for brands.

For you early adopters, think about Twitter of 2016 vs. Twitter of 2009. Remember actually talking to people on Twitter? When was the last time you did that? When was the last time you participated in a Twitter chat? Engagement simply doesn’t happen like it did before on Twitter. And really, that was always the strength of Twitter–as an engagement tool (and, a customer service tool). Go back to my research above. I recall sifting through many corporate Twitter accounts where many tweets had 2-3 likes and 1 RT. I mean, at that point, it’s probably not even worth the effort, right? So, if Twitter is not the engagement tool it once was, what’s in it for brands?

5: It’s almost a confirmed non-traffic driver at this point

We all know Facebook is king when it comes to driving traffic. But, did you know that Twitter is essentially the opposite? That it’s really driving NO traffic for brands? A 2014 Shareaholic survey claimed that Twitter drove just 1/15 the amount of referrals to publishers as Facebook. Now, I know that’s publishers and not brands, but that’s pretty damning evidence. Anecdotally, I can tell you Twitter is always near the bottom of traffic-driving sources for this blog–and many of the companies I’ve worked with in the past.

So, to recap:

  • Twitter isn’t driving the engagement it once was.
  • Twitter isn’t driving traffic for brands.
  • Twitter isn’t as safe a place as it once was.
  • Twitter is still hard to understand.
  • And Twitter isn’t the advertising vehicle Facebook and Instagram are.

If you’re a brand, how are you continuing to justify your time spent on Twitter? I’m legitimately curious.

photo credit: Twitter Hijacked? via photopin (license)

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Meet Minnesota’s Power PR Couples

If you’ve worked in this industry long enough, you’ve probably met one:

A PR “Power Couple.”

You know, that couple that either met in college in PR classes, or met early in their careers while working at an agency in town.

And, more often times than not, they are, in fact “power” couples. That is, they have ascended to the higher ranks more quickly than their peers. They hold powerful positions. They are rock stars in the local Twin Cities PR field.

The more I thought about this, the more couples I started thinking about. And, there are quite a few of them (and these are just the couples I know!). And I’m willing to bet, if you work in PR/communications here in the Twin Cities, you know ONE of the people below.

Jen and Brian Bellmont, partners, Bellmont Partners

Brian - Jen B

Couldn’t be happier for these two friends who have built Bellmont Parters into one of the fastest-growing PR agencies in the Twin Cities. I met them both seven years ago as I was starting my own consultancy–back then, it was just them and partner (and college friend of mine), Shelli Lissick. Today, they’re 15+ and feature a client that that includes Midwest Dairy Association, Reeher, and the Uptown Art Fair. Recently, they were even named the 11th largest PR agency in Minnesota!

Leslie (independant) and Rick (Bring Me the News) Kupchella

Leslie Rick

Doesn’t get anymore “powerful” than these two, does it? Leslie has been in the PR business for more than 30 years working with the likes of Carlson Companies, United Health Group, and as a press secretary for Norm Coleman and Tim Pawlenty. Meanwhile, after 20-plus years on the media side, Rick is now a definite serial enterpreneur starting with his successful Bring Me the News business.

Emily (GEOSYS) and Keith (Exponent PR) Negrin

Keith Emily

Between the two, Emily and Keith have virtually worked at every big PR agency in town–from Padilla to Carmichael Lynch to now (for Keith), Exponent. Also: probably my vote for the funniest power PR couple in town and two people I don’t see nearly enough of anymore (damn kids). Keith is a Practice Leader at Exponent PR while Emily is a Marketing and Communications Manager at GEOSYS.

Gail (Travelers) and Bill (ABRA Auto Body & Glass) Van Cleaf

Gail & Bill

This power couple actually met at a PRSA event (the now-defunct Alphabet Bash) years ago (I still remember the night!). Today, they’re looking after a little one at home, while still holding down power positions at Travelers and ABRA. Gail is also a former PRSA president (where I met her first!).

Sarah Hennen (Solve) and Josh (Target) Carter

Josh Sarah

Without a doubt the most Instagrammed and Facebooked couple on this list. In fact, Sarah and Josh pop up in my feed regularly–whether it’s at a local gala, their anniversary pics (OMG), or just around town, these two seem to be EVERYWHERE these days (sorry about the photo guys–it was the best I could find!

Heather (Mindsailing) and Tony (Level Up) Saucier

Heather Tony

Disclaimer: The Sauciers are friends. Another disclaimer: They may be two of the smarter friends I have. Of course, Tony will tell you Heather is the smartest person he knows (four gold marriage stars for you, Mr. Saucier), but truth be told, any agency or company in town would be more than happy to have either of these folks on their team right now (not that either are looking at the present time–Heather co-leads the agency Mindsailing while Tony recently broke out on his own as a strategist with Level Up Content). As with the soon-to-be Carters above, this was also the best pic of these two I could find 🙂

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If you were going to build a social media team from scratch how would you do it?

Look, I’m comfortable in my current position as an independent consultant. In fact, I’m thrilled I get to do this job day-in and day-out. I’ll do it as long as my clients let me.

But, from time to time, I’ve given thought to what it would be like to take one of these lead social/digital roles you see around the Twin Cities and start (or revamp) a digital team from the ground up.

It’s a fun thing to dream about (although again, to be absolutely clear, I have NO intention of pursuing this!).

Social Team

And, I think it’s a good topic to discuss, because I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer. And, I think a lot of companies struggle with how, exactly, to do this.

So, here’s my thinking, from an independent consultant, mind you 🙂

Step One: Hire a strategist that’s way smarter than me.

I don’t have a ton of experience managing large teams, but one concept I know I’d embrace if I went down this road is this: I’d always hire people smarter than me for key positions. I’ve never been one to worry about my job (which is what people often worry about in situations like this). I actually take the opposite stance–I think smart people will make us all look better. So, I would hire a really, really, really smart strategist and build around that person.

Step Two: Over-pay for an above-average content producer

After working with large companies across the Twin Cities for the last seven-plus years, I’ve seen the importance of having content talent in-house. I know that may not be the smartest thing for a consultant who makes his living off content development to say. But, it’s true. Content producers benefit by sitting in a chair within an organization. Sure, you *could* outsource those roles–and many companies do. But, I just think it makes more sense to have them in-house. And, I’d be more than happy to over-pay for this role, because I think it’s that key to success.

Step Three: Find a solid community manager–but don’t overspend

I’d want all community management in-house, too. All of it. But, unlike the content role, I wouldn’t over-pay for this. It’s a more commoditized skill set. And, it certainly doesn’t command a higher salary. I recognize community management is a key piece of the team, but I also know there’s a LOT of people out there that can do this job effectively (unlike the content roles).

Step Four: Find a social designer/video producer

Here’s where I’d get greedy. We would need a social/digital designer on the team. Key role in today’s visual-first environment. But, I would also want that designer to have video know-how. They don’t have to be a video expert. I’m not talking about someone with 20 years of experience. But, I want someone who has design chops–but also knows a little about iMovie. I would seek a hybrid here. I know it would be hard to find this person, but I would also be willing to train someone up here.

Step Five: Outsource media buying

Could be controversial, but I’d outsource media buying. Why? Because the skill set is so new, it’s going to be awfully tough to find. The agencies have more “talent” in this area right now. And, I bet if you looked hard enough, you could find a solo who specializes (even a little) in paid social and digital advertising. I think hiring for this role would just be too tough right now–as in, I think you’d be likely to have a revolving door of people looking to learn on your dime. No thank you.

Step Six: Find and develop analytics talent

Another tough role to find right now–but they are out there. And, I’d actually go into this hire with the full expectation that I’d want to (and in many cases, need to) coach this person up a bit. I’d work directly with this person to do that–and probably pull the strategist in, too. I’d look for learning opportunities outside the organization (like Minneanalytics). I’d look to pair him/her with an analytics mentor outside the organization. I’d make this a priority, because this would be a key role on the team.

Step Seven: Outsource the niche areas

Podcasting or audio help? Outsource it. Influencer outreach campaigns? Outsource it. Big ideas for our social campaigns in the coming year? Outsource it (here’s where I’d use agency brainpower). My theory is simple: Invest in the primary digital areas and nurture home-grown talent. Outsource niche and hard-to-find talent areas.

photo credit: Social Media Marketing Mix via photopin (license)

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Why LinkedIn is completely missing the boat with its new influencer videos

In case you missed it, LinkedIn announced some “big news” last week: It gave 500 influencers the ability to post videos right in your feeds.

I say “big news” because I think LinkedIn really missed the boat with this move–and it’s indicative of a strategy that may miss an even bigger boat down the road.

These influencer videos are most likely a nod to the burgeoning growth of video across the social web. Can’t you just hear the conversations at LinkedIn HQ?

Guy K

“Hey, video is blowing up people! We need more videos in our newsfeeds. How do we do that?”

“I know! Let’s ask influencers to post 30 second videos that lack punch and depth and everyone will comment on them and share them!”

I mean, that has to be how the conversation went, right? Why else would they do this?

You see, I think LinkedIn is missing the boat here. The lion’s share of folks on LinkedIn don’t go there to hear from influencers, they spend time there to do one of three things:

  • Find a job.
  • Learn.
  • Or, find out what’s going on with friends/colleagues in their networks (new jobs, etc.0

Now, you could make the argument that people could learn by following these influencers. And, that would be a valid point. But, I would argue most people aren’t seeking out these influencers. If Guy Kawasaki has something interesting to say on a topic I care about (the last time he did that, by the way, it was 2010), I’ll stop and read it. But, I don’t SEEK OUT Guy Kawasaki on LinkedIn. And, I can’t believe anyone does, really.

So, to me, these influencer videos are contrived. They feel forced. And, by and large, they don’t add a ton of value.

Instead, why doesn’t LinkedIn focus on making the user experience even better by figuring out new and better ways for me to connect with people I care about (i.e., colleagues, former managers, college classmates, etc.)?

Since I’m never one to criticize and not offer up ideas, here’s a few free ideas LinkedIn on how to better the user experience:

  • Fine-tune the ability to sort contacts. For some reason, LinkedIn recently changed this. I used to be able to filter my contact list by location and a bunch of other factors. Now, I can only do it by first and last name. What good is that? For someone who sifts through his LinkedIn database A LOT, this is a huge perk that they took away. Suggest refining it ASAP.
  • Create a new “Ask Me Anything”-like experience. If you really want to exploit the influencers (uh, I mean, give them a better platform from which to speak), why not take a page from Reddit’s book and create an “Ask Me Anything”-type platform within LinkedIn where people would ask these influencers questions about a particular topic in real time? Now THAT’S something I think people would find useful–not these throw-away 30-second videos.
  • Offer more robust advertising options. I’ve been frustrated with this for a while now. LinkedIn is such a great platform for so many businesses (and continues to be under-utilized by many). But, ad options still aren’t up to snuff (and, they’re usually more costly than Facebook and Instagram). Why not beef up those options so more companies can participate and engage more effectively? I know this doesn’t really get at the whole “creating a better user experience” angle, but I’d like to see them spend more time here than creating more useless influencer stuff.

That’s my two cents. Your thoughts on the new Influencer videos?

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9 social content trends to watch in 2017

Earlier this week, I had the privilege at speaking at the Florida Public Relations Association Annual Conference at the Innisbrook Resort in Tampa. The #SoloPR Summit is now part of this event–an event I’ve spoken at for the last four years. It’s the one chance we solos have to get together each year and see each other face-to-face. It’s a blast, and I’m grateful to Kellye Crane for starting it years ago, and for Karen Swim for taking the reins and running with it.

At this year’s event, I spoke on social content trends. Specifically, 9 social content trends I think PRs and marketers should keep an eye on in 2017.

I’ve written about a number of these topics before, but today I’d just like to share the presentation here. Enjoy–and I hope you can take a thing or two for the deck (tough to do in deck-only format, I know) and apply it to your “day job.”



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