Go ahead. Google the phrase “Social media training Minneapolis.”
What comes up?
A couple academic institutions attempting to pull it off.
A handful of agencies.
And an Eventbrite list.
In a nutshell, that describes my experience with social media training programs (or a lack thereof) in the Twin Cities.
Where are they? Why isn’t anyone doing this? Especially when there is a clear gap in the market?
Because, let’s be honest, there is a gap. When it comes to social media education, I see a clear gap in the following areas:
- Strategy–despite the fact that almost everyone that works in the social media realm lists this competency on their resume.
- Content development–see above.
- Social media advertising–potentially the biggest need of them all right now. A fairly complicated process and set of tools with little to no support (outside of the platforms themselves).
- Social analytics–another huge hole, especially when you have PR people filling it who, to a large extent, have been trained more to use the other side of their brain.
- Social video–in other words, how to I plan, capture and edit video on and from my phone. Would probably include training on some kind of video editing program as well (i.e. GarageBand).
- Podcasting–growing need here. Again, seems like an area and skill that VERY few people have, but I would think many would be interested in acquiring.
I know the professional organizations touch on these topics with their programming from time to time, and I think that’s great (in fact, there’s a couple really great ones coming up this summer/fall–just can’t talk about them yet!). But, I’m talking and thinking about something much deeper than a one-time event. I’m talking about real training programs designed to get very much in the weeds on the topics above. You can’t do that in an hour-long session, folks.
I’m thinking about something like Brainco. You’ve heard of Brainco, right? It’s a shorter, more condensed training program for creatives. It includes classes on copywriting, computer graphics and WordPress development. The idea seems to be to give students a well-rounded education in the creative field and prepare you for a job in advertising, design or brand work.
Exactly what we need for social media and/or digital.
So, maybe we should do it. Maybe we could do this together. Maybe I’m talking myself into this right now!
What would we need? In order:
- A venue. Ideally somewhere downtown, in North Loop or South Minneapolis. Somewhere with small classrooms, but also a couple larger rooms or auditoriums to hold larger sessions/presentations.
- Professors. Might be tougher than you think. For example, social advertising. I’m not sure I know a ton of people with deep experience in this area. But, collectively, we could identify the right people. We have such a vibrant digital community here in Minneapolis–I know those professors are out there somewhere!
- Curriculum. Someone, or a team of someone’s, would need to drive our topics and subject matter. I think we could benefit by getting input from key digital leaders across our community. I think we could benefit by chatting with real professors at universities around town who are touching on this kind of stuff in the classroom (I’m looking at you, Betsy Andersen).
- Money. We’d need funding to get it up and running. Maybe we employ a BrandLab model, which seems to be based on a combo-platter of corporate and individual donors. I mean, developing social/digital talent would definitely benefit corporations and agencies around town–why wouldn’t they support something like this?
I don’t know–what do you think? Could we do this? I’m thinking it might be worth a shot. The need is clearly there. The work would benefit us all.
I like where this could be going. Who’s with me? If you’re serious, send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m interested in exploring options.
In case you haven’t noticed (and if you haven’t, you’ve most likely been vacationing on the moon for the last 3+ months), your Facebook newsfeed has been taken over by politics.
Activism is at what I would have to believe is an all-time high (at least in the internet era). And that’s great to see.
Except if you’re a brand marketer.
Why do I say that?
Well, think about the current environment. Think about your newsfeed. What’s showing up?
This is a typical post in my feed right now:
Here’s another one:
It’s virtually endless. Now, I’m not here to debate whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. I’m not here to say people shouldn’t be advocating for their political views on Facebook. But, I do wonder what this means for brands.
It’s getting so bad, you’re also seeing this kind of post becoming more common each passing day:
So again, think about the current environment on Facebook. You have a large piece of the population posting relentlessly about their political views and the actions they are taking. And, you have a growing number of people who are opting to completely sit out–some even going as to far as to say they are taking a break from Facebook altogether.
As a brand marketer, that’s not-so-great news.
Meanwhile, anecdotally (and I’ve said this before recently), I’ve noticed meaningful engagement (i.e., comments and shares) has been down for big brands recently. And not just for the ones I work with.
But brands seem to be plowing forward with a business-as-usual mindset.
I’m not saying that’s the wrong approach. And I’m not claiming to have a solid answer. I’m just raising the question: Is it prudent for brands to be spending just as much time and money on Facebook as they were a year ago given the current political environment?
It’s an interesting question, right? Specifically for Facebook. Because the same discussion doesn’t apply to Pinterest or Instagram where kid pics, cat memes and food selfies continue to dominate.
But, if you’re a midsized or larger brand and you’re spending a decent amount of money on Facebook advertising right now, doesn’t the scenario I describe above concern you?
I’m not saying we need to stop posting to Facebook. That would most likely be foolish–after all, Facebook still is THE dominant social platform. But, at the very least, I think you need to think about re-assessing frequency and calibrating message a bit given what’s happening.
I’m not saying you need to discontinue advertising on Facebook until things die down. Because, well, things might not die down for quite a while. But, maybe you think about scaling back advertising for a bit–especially if you’re not seeing the results you have been seeing the last year or so.
And I’m not saying you let up on community management. If anything, you’ll probably have to spend more time monitoring the web given the polarizing environment we’re in and the fact that one tweet from the president could actually impact your stock price.
What I AM saying is it probably makes sense to give all this a little thought. Even just a quick conversation with your team. Times have changed significantly since early November–time to make sure your strategy still makes sense.
I’ve had the same question come up with a few different clients recently, so I’m betting it’s one you might be asking, too:
Which social data do you trust?
Because, you most likely have multiple sources.
For example, any socially active company will most likely have the following data sources:
- Facebook Insights (including ad metrics)
- LinkedIn Analytics
- Twitter data
- Google Analytics
- Email data
- Proprietary third-party platforms (this is where it really gets fun!)
All these sources present viable data, but they’re usually not consistent.
In other words, Google Analytics may be telling you Facebook is referring 28 percent of all traffic to your site (good for you, if this is the case!). But, your Facebook Insights and ad metrics are telling a different story.
Pretty common, right?
Then, add in the unneeded complexity of third-party platforms. Companies that use their own measurement platform–namely agencies and web companies who refuse to use GA. These platforms rarely match up data with GA or social platform metrics.
So, suddenly we have a big problem. We have three different sources of data–and no one to tell us what’s right and what’s not.
Add to that the fact that social platforms are either exaggerating or wildly inflating metrics like video views, and you have marketing and PR directors everywhere asking one big question:
Who, or what data, do I trust?
Here’s my thinking on the topic.
#1: (Usually) Default to Google Analytics
That’s the industry standard. Most people know how to use it. It’s probably the most accurate. I’d try to stay away from third-party platforms where you can’t necessarily see under the hood, and rely on the platform millions of people use each day.
#2: Google Analytics > Social metrics
Again, I’d lean toward GA when looking at referral traffic, in particular. Again, gold standard. And, given the recent news from Facebook re: video views, I’m not all that inclined to believe everything they’re reporting on these days anyway.
#3: Be careful to manage expectations with social metrics
Here’s a simple rule I try to use: If it feels too good to be true, it probably is. Case in point: Video views on Facebook! For the last year-plus, we’ve been seeing these HUGE video view numbers and licking our chops. So many views! But, at the outset, it seemed too good to be true, right? RIGHT? If it seems to good to be true, it probably is. The smart marketers saw this coming. We were managing expectations with clients and stakeholders. So, when news broke that, in fact, Facebook had inflated these view metrics, we knew exactly what to say and how to manage the message.
Ran into an interesting situation recently with a client.
Part of our work is media outreach. So, not surprisingly, one way we’re staying connected with reporters is through Twitter.
We developed the requisite Twitter lists.
Researched them inside and out.
And started “engaging” (i.e., monitoring and looking for small opportunities to talk to them).
Seems pretty straight-forward, right?
But nothing is as straight-forward as it seems in this business.
There’s always a wrinkle.
In this case, the wrinkle was this: As a consultant (sorry brand folks, just talking to my agency/consultant friends here), does it make sense to engage reporters on Twitter from your personal handle, or from the client’s corporate handle?
That’s a good question for discussion, right?
Let’s look at both sides of the coin:
Engaging from your personal Twitter account
To me, this is generally the way to go. Mostly, because you can engage and talk to the reporter “person to person.” That definitely makes a difference. Sure, they most likely know you’re a PR person with a quick glance at your profile, but they’re probably more apt to talk to a person on Twitter than a company. Now, the downside of this approach is: 1) Not everyone has a functioning Twitter account–yes, it’s true; and 2) Even those who do have a functioning Twitter account don’t want to use it for work purposes (and, as far as I know, that’s within their right to say that). So, it’s not a slam dunk. But, this approach makes the most sense to me. Although…
Engaging from the client’s corporate Twitter account
Let’s say you don’t have a Twitter account. And no one on the team is comfortable using their personal account (a stretch, especially for larger team, but still a possibility). In this case, you’d have to use the corporate account. But, the downside is its a corporate account. It will come off very official. Very stiff. And very spokesperson-y. Which, in some cases, is fine. But, in some cases, that’s not what you’ll be after. The other argument I could make here is this: If you’re reaching out to reporter on Twitter from your personal account, you’re building equity in YOU. If you’re doing it from the corporate account, you’re building equity in the CLIENT. Bit of a difference. I could see that playing into your decision-making, too.
I’ve run into this a couple times in the past year. But, I’m REALLY curious to hear what my agency friends have to say about this one. I’m sure it’s a talker on that end.
What do you think agency friends? Personal or corporate Twitter account–which one makes most sense to engage reporters?
It’s 2015, and we’re still seeing posts like this:
Big deal, you say. Seems like a perfectly innocuous Instagram post by an “influencer” to me, right?
Let’s look a little closer. While this post doesn’t seem to clearly be affiliated with a sponsor or brand, what about this one?
Now, I can’t say this influencer is getting paid for this post. But the signs lead me to believe otherwise:
- The same images show up in both posts. Curious.
- The influencer calls out @Applegate by name. Curious.
- Both posts include the same Honest Kids drink.
Now, those could be coincidences. Maybe this influencer is just really excited about kids lunches and likes calling out brands by name.
But I’m not buying it.
I think this influencer is getting paid for these posts.
And, they’re not disclosing.
She’s hardly alone.
Here’s another example.
More red flags:
- Um, you can see the Chevy folks (presumably) taking video of her in one of the shots!
- Using #grateful in the post – wonder what you’re grateful for!
And one last example:
More red flags:
- Again, the influencer uses the brand handle. Curious.
- The influencer also calls out the product by its exact name. Curious.
Now again, could be a coincidence. But again, I highly doubt it.
Another influencer post. Another failure to disclose.
It’s all too common. And, as much as the influencers are at fault, it’s the brands that are going to be financially penalized if they’re caught.
In case you didn’t notice the FTC recently amended its FAQ page earlier this year to include a slew of common questions and answers. The message: You’re on notice, brand folks.
So, what’s a brand marketer to do?
Let’s use the following example and assume you were the marketer working for @Candelles below.
First, make sure to be clear about disclosures from the very beginning.
Once you consummate the relationship financially, that’s a good time to start discussing disclosures with an influencer.
Remember, disclosure doesn’t have to be complicated.
In this case, a simple #Sponsored would have done the trick in this post. Other options: #ad #partnership #parter #client
Make sure you make your request to the influencer in writing.
Get it in an email. Get it in multiple emails. And make sure you save those emails. That’s your paper trail if the FTC comes calling.
Don’t just ask–follow up with the influencer
It’s not just enough to get your request in writing to the influencer (although that’s a damn good start). Follow up and ask the influencer to disclose. In this case, I would have sent an email the second after I saw this post to the influencer, asking them to amend the post to include #Sponsor somewhere in it.