“Arik, I have a couple team members I need to train up when it comes to social media ad buying–where should I send them?”
It’s a question I’ve been getting more and more the last couple years. And, so far, my response has been: “Beats me.” Because, really, there’s not a solid, reputable place to send these folks.
Think about it.
Sure, classes exist that cover social media and digital marketing at the University of Minnesota and the University of St. Thomas. But, as reputable as those institutions are (and I love them both), those types of classes are often taught by tenured professors who are a bit disconnected from the workforce (with the notable exception of people like Betsy Anderson at the U of M).
Or, there are social media certificate programs. I’m sure you’ve seen some of these in your Facebook or LinkedIn feeds. They cover the right subject matter areas. They talk a good game. But, in the end, the classes are led by people who just don’t have Fortune 500-level marketing chops. And, they’re just not respected by big companies and agencies (that’s not me saying it–that’s coming right from the people I’ve talked to about this the last few months).
So, there’s a gap. A HUGE gap, in my opinion.
My business partner and friend, Jamie Plesser, and I hope to fill that gap with sparked.
sparked is a social and digital media training program where real-world professionals who work from some of the Twin Cities largest brands and agencies are the professors.
People like Jamie Kvamme from Polaris who will be teaching our class on social media advertising. Jamie has led and managed social media marketing, including sophisticated ad buys, for Polaris for the last four years.
Or, people like Cydney Strommen from Fast Horse who will be teaching our class on influencer marketing. Cydney has led tremendously successful influencer campaigns for brands like General Mills and Coca-Cola. Doesn’t get much bigger than that, does it?
Other professors for this first program include Greg Swan from Fallon (who will be talking trends, which is what he does best), Kaitlyn Schiltz from Sleep Number (who will be teaching a class on content), and Amanda Gebhard from Boston Scientific (who will be teaching a class on community and crisis).
But, sparked will be much more than just a training program. It will be an experience.
We’re holding the program at The LAB in Loring Park–a really cool space, if you’ve never been.
The classes will be interactive–we may even get out of the classroom for a session or two for some real-time experiential marketing!
We’re partnering with non-profits like Still Kickin so our students can test their digital chops with a real-life organization.
And, we’ll give our students the chance to stay connected long after the program with a private Facebook group curated just for them.
We’re limiting these classes to just 25 people so we can best guarantee a first-class experience and optimal training environment.
Want to be a part of the first sparked cohort? Sign up now!
“Join the conversation.”
It’s a phrase that’s been ubiquitous since social media blew up in 2007-2008.
It’s been used in countless agency pitches. It’s been used in marketing campaigns. And, it’s been used (to death) in signage by retailers, restaurants and media.
And, as of Sept. 12, 2017, it’s officially a dead internet phrase.
1 — Brands aren’t conversing.
According to a recent Spredfast report, a whopping 89 percent of brand mentions on Twitter go unanswered. Now, say what you will about Twitter (and people have said a lot lately), but for brands, it’s generally regarded as a great customer service tool–and, as a result, ideal place to hold “conversations.” Yet, apparently, only 11 percent of tweets mentioning brands are receiving a response. Doesn’t sound like brands want to join any conversations, does it?
2 — Customers aren’t conversing either–they’re commenting.
Valeria Maltoni said it much better than I could have in this recent post. But customers really aren’t having conversations with brands. Truth be told, they haven’t been for quite a while. They’re commenting “at” brands. As Valeria says, “not the same.” The difference? In my mind, a conversation is like a dinner party. You have real-time discussions with people. You share ideas. You learn from others. It’s collaborative, in a way. This is what Twitter was like from about 2007-2010. It really was a conversation. I had real conversations with friends (local and far-flung). In real time. It was fun. But that doesn’t happen anymore. Customers merely comment these days (and increasingly, not on Twitter). Commenting, unlike conversations, is very one-way. It’s not fluid. It’s not discussion-based. Customers aren’t looking for conversations online–they’re just looking to share a piece of feedback. One comment at a time.
3 — Social media is no longer about conversations.
Gone are the days of the genuine “conversation” on social media. Enter the age of paid social media. I’m not breaking news here, of course, but increasingly brands see social media as a set of tools to target and reach customers and potential customers. They do this by using social ads that are incredibly targeted, and powerful. This is the social media of 2017–using social ad buys to reach customers and potential customers to influence purchase decisions. Brands don’t even WANT to have a conversation–they merely want to target you with their ads and content.
Why do I even bring this up? Because words matter. And for brands to still be saying “Join the conversation” still in 2017 seems a little silly (and almost 100 percent inaccurate).
So, I’m just saying we should all just stop. Agree?
Note: Photo courtesy of @jpbrammer
Tuesday was essentially a national holiday for many who worship at the table the coffee bean. Of course, it was National PSL Day. In layman’s terms, National Pumpkin Spice Latte Day.
It was the day Starbucks officially launched its signature drink (one of them, at least) to the world. It’s become a bit of a tradition the last number of years–usually around Labor Day.
But I’m guessing it’s a creative challenge to come up with new and interesting ways to play up this launch each year. This year was no exception. And once again, Starbucks did not disappoint.
To play up the launch, Starbucks showcase a live feed of a pumpkin patch on its Facebook page.
It instantly reminded me of IHOP’s infamous “Pancakes on a Beach” campaign that generated huge impression and engagement numbers.
And, much like IHOP, Starbucks was out to have some fun. Just check out the sign in the first FB Live post above: “You just witnessed the rare and beautiful phenomenon known as ’tilting’! Ancient farmers used it as a fairly unreliable compass.”
Now, I didn’t sit around all Labor Day weekend tuning into this live stream, but I did notice they were promoting it in the feed Friday-Monday.
They even created a contest to name the first PSL of the season–and promoted it with a pinned comment on Facebook:
And over on Twitter as well:
Any guesses as to which name won? 🙂
Finally, Starbucks made it “Facebook official” with a post early Tuesday morning:
Was the social campaign a little on the cutesy side? Absolutely. Was it gimmicky? Yep. Was it effective in driving additional interest and a “I have to have my first PSL RIGHT NOW!” attitude among fans? Most likely.
Overall, a creative execution to an “event” that comes around every 12 months. I’ve said this before, but anytime you have a recurring event or launch like this, as a brand, it’s incredibly tough to do something creative and interesting each year. Somehow, Starbucks manages to always be pushing the envelope. So I say, kudos for that.
However, the PSL launch story has another side. Apparently, there was some confusion on the operations side of the business.
Some people were spotted with PSLs as early as Sept. 1:
But, distribution of the early PSLs was spotty at best–some locations had it, while others did not. Of course, this didn’t sit well with the passionate Starbucks fan base. And, as you would expect, many took to social media to complain about it:
— mudrika (@mudra2511) September 1, 2017
What happened? According to a subreddit, the Starbucks corporate office changed the release date and many locations didn’t comply.
However, three days later, and I’m not sure it mattered. A quick glimpse through Twitter and the Starbucks Facebook page, and all I can find are positive comments and people talking about how excited they are for #PSLSeason.
— Stacy Solis (@Stacy_Solis) September 5, 2017
Operations snafu–looks that way. However, when you’re a brand that’s built up the goodwill that Starbucks has over the years, and you have a product that’s as popular as the PSL, you’re often given a pass. Plus, in this case, the excitement for the PSF just steamrolled over what could have been a much bigger “crisis-type” situation over the Labor Day weekend.
So, creative social execution or PR mess? Gotta side with the former in this case. Nice work, Starbucks. Just keep on pushing that social media envelope.
You heard me.
#AbolishRFPs. Check it–it’s trending.
This isn’t a new topic in our industry. Heck, I’ve even written about it before. But, it keeps popping up and every time I’m referred to an RFP, it gets me a little fired up.
Here’s why: As a solo, I believe RFPs/RFQs/RFIs are a complete waste of time. Three reasons:
1: They can take a lot of time. 20+ hours in some cases. That’s a lot of free money to be giving away, should you not win the RFP. The most recent RFP I came across had nine areas they wanted vendors to complete. That’s a lot of content to think through and create for one potential client. And for a solo, that’s a TON of time I just don’t have.
2: You don’t always know the full story. Sure, you can ask the client if the incumbent is applying. You can ask how many agencies or solos are involved. But more times than not, my bet is that you’ll never know the full story. Politics play a part. Personal vendettas come into play (on the client side). And, sometimes, the dynamics change mid-RFP–nothing you can do. Just seems to me like there are an awful lot of factors outside your control–I’ll take my chances elsewhere.
3: I already give enough away for free. This blog, for example. My Talking Points e-newsletter. The Talking Points Podcast. I create and give away enough free content and ideas throughout any given week–I’m not sure I want to give away anymore. Now, I’m not saying the aforementioned content is groundbreaking, or that those ideas are going to win any Silver Anvils. But, the fact remains: RFPs are often asking for free ideas. I don’t like giving away free ideas when I already give away so much.
Now, I talked about this issue on Facebook last week–many friends and colleagues weighed in. And, many of them pushed back on my #AbolishRFPs claim. I’d like address those issues head-on here:
“Try working for a large company and asking for $50M without one”
Yep, I’m not winning any $50M accounts. No need to argue this one.
“Look at it from the client’s side: RFPs are spectacularly efficient and, if done correctly, allow them to find the right-fit solution. So, yeah, we can say we won’t chase them but that just cuts us out of enormous swaths of potential work.”
I’m sure they do work well from the client side. But you know what? Why can’t the clients pay for the ideas? If they have a $50M budget, as one friend mentioned above, why not set aside a small chunk of that money to compensate the finalists for their thinking? I get the need to find the right fit, but I think there are other ways to go about it.
“Completely disagree that solos can’t win these things. I’m solo; I win these things. Sometimes I’m the only resume in the document and sometimes it’s a big team. It never even occurred to me that I couldn’t compete against agencies.”
The person who left this comment, in my view, is a unique individual. He almost specializes in RFPs and undoubtedly has spent years crafting a process to respond to them efficiently. Kudos, I say. But, for the remaining 99% of solos, it’s just not worth the effort when you can obtain work without going through this hideous process.
At the end of the day, I realize RFPs aren’t going anywhere. They’re a necessary evil–especially for bigger companies and agencies.
But, for solos? It’s high time this garbage stops. I haven’t seen a ton of RFPs in the last nine years, but the ones I have seen have been for projects with relatively minimal budgets.
And, I know there are probably exceptions for most people. If you’re really struggling to find work, completing an RFP seems a lot more paletable than if you’re already fairly busy. If the company issuing the RFP is a company you’ve always wanted to work with, maybe you do consider it.
But man, I just can’t get over the work and hours needed to invest to win these things. Still seems absurd to me.
Yep, #AbolishRFPs. I’m stickin’ with it.
What say you?
Each week, I put together and distribute The Talking Points e-newsletter (sign up here). It’s full of stories and articles designed to help people like YOU do your job’s just a little bit better. And, it’s also full of jobs I think would be interesting to readers.
My process for identifying and curating those jobs isn’t all that complex, or difficult, for that matter. But, there is a process behind it–and resources I use on a consistent basis. And, since many of you will most likely be searching for a job in the next 2-3 years (stats prove it out, folks!), I thought I would share those resources today and how I use them. It total, I use seven different online resources when finding those job posting each week:
The longest-running PR blog in Minnesota–and, truth be told, one of the longest-running PR blogs in the entire country. Kudos to Ryan May for creating this resource so many of us use on a weekly basis. I don’t pull every job from this blog, but I definitely check it each week.
More focused on internships and beginner-level positions, but definitely a resource I look at each week. Tends to include more positions at mid-sized orgs, media enterprises and non-profits, but still worth checking. In particular, I look under “Communications-Public Relations”, “Advertising” and “Marketing and Brand/Product Management”.
Typically doesn’t have a ton of listings, and they do tend to overlap with the MN PR Blog, but worth a quick glance each week.
As you’ll see, I use LinkedIn in a dual-purpose when searching for jobs. In this case, I’m clicking on the “jobs” tab at the top of the page. Then, I’m typically searching for “public relations” and “social media” positions in Minneapolis. Over the last couple years, that typically brings up a decent amount of jobs each week. You’d be surprised.
The other way I use LinkedIn is to peruse my feed 2-3 times per day for people posting about local jobs here in Minneapolis/St. Paul. This usually yields 2-3 jobs a week–these are positions my friends, colleagues, clients and former clients are posting. And, these are typically the kinds of jobs that aren’t posted to some of the other resources listed here. I usually click through to the jobs and bookmark the sites (using Feedly and my friendly Feedly bookmarklet) for reference later.
This site was one of my biggest sources of jobs up until a few months ago when they redesigned the site. Now, it seems a little tougher to uncover jobs the way I did before. Regardless, a great site to visit weekly.
More focused on ad-related jobs, but I still check it each week.