Sure seems like it.
My original idea for this post was to feature 4-5 non-profits that executed exceedingly creative social media marketing campaigns during Give to the Max Day.
This should be easy to find, right? After all, non-profits don’t have huge teams or budgets, so they need to be scrappy. Creative. And, boot-strappy. Although social media has really shifted to paid media in recent years, many non-profits are still committed to using it to drum up organic support for their organizations.
However, that doesn’t seem to be the case in Minnesota on #GTTMD.
Keep in mind, I couldn’t possibly research ALL the non-profits in Minnesota and what they do during #GTTMD. So, I looked at the top 5 fundraisers in all the key category levels (small, midsized, intermediate, large). Certainly, there must be a few in those groups who executed a creative social media marketing campaign!
What I found disappointed me.
I saw a lot of these types of tweets:
TODAY is the day! Please help Bridging meet our matching grant goal– we are getting closer, We know we can do it, with your help! https://t.co/V2RqDoGfMU
— Bridging (@BridgingMN) November 15, 2018
And, organizations making just singular posts on key platforms like Instagram.
To be fair, there were a number of tactics I thought were creative and/or just plain smart.
For example, I loved the Carlson School of Management’s (#client) thank you videos from actual students to actual donors. Not uber sexy, but smart and (I would think) effective and showing simple gratitude directly to those who donated.
— Carlson School of Management (@CarlsonNews) November 16, 2018
I also loved the Twin City Jewfolk’s wall-to-wall Facebook Live video feed featuring all their partners and supporters.
I also LOVED their use of the throwback Nintendo imagery in the promotion!
And, probably not surprisingly, Secondhand Hounds did an outstanding job telling the stories of its puppies and dogs on Facebook. Again, not sexy or super creative, but pretty damn effective.
But overall, I guess I was surprised so many non-profits either gave up on social in 2018 or simply went through the motions.
Maybe it does make sense given where we are with social. More reliance on paid media. Way too much clutter to compete. I guess I could see a strong argument for simply ignoring social altogether on #GTTMD (in fact, it’s something the University of St. Thomas has been doing for a while now, doing most of their promotion BEFORE #GTTMD).
However, I continue to believe the opportunity to cut through all that clutter is still there. You just need to come up with a creative idea.
That’s always been the issue with social. Creative wins. And, most creative DOES NOT have to mean BIGGEST. In fact, most creative can often be the smaller players in any industry. Over the years, that’s proven true. Think Warby Parker (before they became huge). Think Blendtec and its famous Will it Blend videos from the early days.
Small organizations can win with social. And, many non-profits competing for valuable dollars during #GTTMD seem primed to do just that. I guess, more than anything, I was surprised by how few committed to social this year.
Like many of you, this is the time of year when I start planning for the year ahead. Part of that involved thinking about new ideas.
New ideas for how I can drum up new business.
New ideas for how I can be an active member of our local digital/comms community.
And new ideas for how I can drive more awareness for my name and what I offer.
And, in some cases, rethinking exactly WHAT I offer.
It’s a ton of fun. Planning and brainstorming are, without question, two of the things I love most about my job. So, I started thinking about ideas that hit on all those criteria above. How could I best use my time, in 2019, to be a better member of our local community, drive awareness for my business and drum up new business in the process.
At the same time, I also am taking some advice I got at the recent MIMA Summit to hear: Share your ideas. The concept? Share your ideas widely for feedback, input and reach. You never know where it might take you!
So, today, I’m sharing ideas! Below are five ideas I’ve been kicking around. I’d love to hear your feedback and if you’d have interest in working with someone like me on one or more of these ideas.
Idea #1: Talking Points Trend Report
Almost nine years ago, a friend came to me with an urgent need: Could you keep me and my team ahead of the curve when it comes to social media marketing?
Remember, this was nine years ago. Social was just breaking out. Companies were still figuring things out. And, this particular friend was getting questions from all sorts of colleagues and executives internally. She had to get some answers!
So, I came up with the novel concept of a “trend report.” It included four sections:
- Digital Data and Statistics – This section included the latest reports and studies from all sorts of vendors and media outlets and how that data related to my client.
- Social Media Trends – This section talked about the obvious–the latest trends in the social and digital media marketing worlds.
- New Tools & Technologies – This section shared information on the newest tools and enhancements to social media platforms–and, as we all know, there’s no shortage of information to keep up on here.
- Case Studies – This section shared case studies relevant to my client in the social media marketing world.
The report, in total was about 20-25 pages long. The client loved it. In fact, at the end of our contract, she was sharing it with the executive team–including the CEO (keep in mind, this was a Fortune 500 client)!
Needless to say, that report was a huge success. But, sadly, I never really did anything with it afterward.
So I’ve been thinking about re-introducing a new version of this tool–The Talking Points Trend Report.
This report will be a little “lighter” than the version I developed for my client–most likely around 10-15 pages. But, it will include the same buckets of items: Data/Stats, Trends, New tools/enhancements, and Case studies.
For anyone working in social media marketing, it should be immensely helpful because it will distill a month’s worth of reading into 10-15 easy-to-read pages. And, it will be a tool you can share broadly with your team.
Talking Points Career Coaching
The number-one reason most people ask me to grab coffee centers around one basic question: I need to find a new job and I’d love your help! Even the people I meet with that don’t initially ask me about this eventually get around to it. Clearly, there is a big need for this kind of coaching specific to our industry (PR, comms, social).
I know there are a ton of career coaches out there, but I don’t know too many that focus on JUST PR, comms and social (focus, after all, is critical to the job hunt).. So, I got to thinking: Maybe I could help here. Maybe I could position myself as career coach of sorts. Offering to help people with job search strategies, connections and advice on how to best manager their careers in PR, comms and social. I’m not a professional, obviously, but I have essentially been helping people with this very thing for the last nine years now. I’m not entirely sure how I’d structure it just yet–maybe some kind of smaller monthly subscription. But, I do think there’s something here. And, I truly enjoy helping people in this area.
Interim social media director/manager (or maternity leave fill-ins)
I’ve been asked about this exact service three times in the last three months. That can’t be a coincidence. Companies will have these gaps even more in the future, as there are now more social media managers than there were just 3-4 years ago. And, people go out on maternity/paternity leave all the time–especially as that benefit grows in length of time! This is definitely a gap I can help fill. In fact, I’ve done it before with my friends at Sleep Number (years ago)!
Need someone with 20+ years of experience to step in and lead your social media efforts while you find a replacement for this role? I could step in with minimal training or guidance. Need someone to fill in for your social media director while she goes on maternity leave for three months? I can fill that role easily, helping direct traffic and strategize while she’s out. This one seems like a no-brainer–I just need to figure out how to package it and “sell” it.
Advertise with the Talking Points E-newsletter
I’ve been publishing the Talking Points e-newsletter now for more than five years. What started as a total experiment has evolved into one of my most effective content marketing tactics! Open rates hover around 30 percent with click-thru rates in the teens.
More importantly, I continue to receive unsolicited comments in my inbox like this from readers: “Thank you for putting something in my inbox that I WANT to open and review. That’s a rarity these days.”
So, I’ve been thinking: Maybe I could give companies the opportunity to sponsor job posts here? With each e-newsletter, I routinely aggregate 8-10 jobs in each issue. What if I gave companies the chance to feature their open position right at the top of that list with a bit more context/info? Would that have value? Would companies be interested in something like that?
Sponsor the Talking Points Podcast
Kevin Hunt, my Talking Points Podcast partner, and I have discussed this at length for the last year. Our perspective: We’re not looking to make money with the podcast. Truly, we just do it as a chance to get together each month, talk shop and shine the spotlight on other great people in the community. But, we also have costs: Hosting, equipment and other ad-hoc items that come up.
So, we’ve been thinking about approaching sponsors. As a sponsor, we’d include mentions of the company/organization within the podcast. We’d also be open to the company suggesting people for us to interview for the show, since we’re always looking for interesting people to feature.
Our podcast isn’t huge–we’re not an NPR podcast. But we’re consistent. We’ve been at this for 3 years now and we’ve recorded 100 shows (actually, our 100th show will be recorded next Tuesday!). This wouldn’t be a big-ticket sponsorship–probably in the $500-1,000 per year. We’ve approached a couple organizations so far, and they have been interested (but nothing finalized yet). I wonder if we would attract more suitors if we opened it up to a broader audience of potential sponsors.
So, those are my big five ideas I’ve been kicking around. What do you think? I’d love to hear from YOU! Take this quick 1-minute survey or, send me a note at email@example.com if you are interested in one or more of the items above.
I first met Sara Mulder at a client meeting. Turns out, we shared a client (Sleep Number). At times, meeting the bigger agency folks who work with clients can be a little stand-off-ish–with competitiveness and all. But, I didn’t sense that at all with Sara. And, I came to discover quite the opposite. Sara was open, honest and open to new ideas (not that she really needed any!). She turned out to be a wonderful new connection that I’ve tried to keep up with long after she left Fleishman Hillard and the Sleep Number account.
Let’s hear more from this long-time Rock Star.
Q: Tell us more about your current role at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota.
A: I was attracted to healthcare because of its complexity. I’m a problem solver at heart so complexity equals opportunity in my mind. And so far, I haven’t been disappointed. Currently, much of my time is devoted to Medicare as there is quite a bit of change in what the federal government allows for plan options for Minnesota’s seniors this year. It’s been described as a once-in-a-generation shift in how Minnesotans get their Medicare benefits and its really unique compared to the rest of the country. I also manage the Trailblazer Tour which showcases noteworthy innovation and collaboration that is moving health forward. It’s a way to shine a spotlight on what’s working in hopes of accelerating the pace of change.
Q: Many would say media relations is dying. At the very least, its role in the marketing/communications mix is evolving. What would you say about media relations’ role in the mix at Blue Cross? How does it play into your plans and how does it impact results?
A: I certainly don’t think media relations is dying, but the shift/fragmentation of how we receive information and who we are influenced by underscores the importance of developing a sound strategy. Twenty years ago, media relations wasn’t the silver bullet to all communication problems just like social media isn’t a silver bullet today. Despite the evolution of how we communicate, the basic tenets of persuasion are the same. So situation analysis, research and strategy development still lead our planning to identify the most effective tactics. At Blue Cross we know that many of our key stakeholders (members, agents and regulators to name a few) respond to what they see in the news so our relationships with media are key to managing corporate reputation. And how well we communicate via mass media can greatly impact the degree to which an issue affects the business.
It reminds me of the saying, “Start with a specialist and you’ll get that specialist’s solution of choice. Surgeon = surgery.” It’s why I keep going back to the roots of my professional strength: understanding the psycho-social underpinnings of communication. The basics can be applied to any medium.
Q: I worked in the accounting industry for five years, so I know how seemingly “boring” industries can actually be pretty darn fun and interesting. How has that played out for you at BCBS? How has insurance becoming interesting and fun for you?
A: I absolutely love the challenge of distilling complexity into personally relevant information. I love learning and discovering “why.” Most complicated things are complicated for good reason: there are (and should be) exceptions to rules. Very few things in civilized society are black and white and I find the details fascinating.
Q: What’s the one thing about your current role that you love the most?
A: The people. I work with fair, kind and reasonable people who give me room to be creative and contribute to the business.
Q: You’ve had a slew of interesting roles at interesting companies over the years. Any career highlights that truly stand out?
A: My first year contracting at General Mills supporting Yoplait was fantastic because we were really paving the road right in front of us in regards to using social media to promote a brand. It’s right up there with proving that an American Standard toilet can easily flush a bucket of golf balls at a tradeshow.
Q: Many of those companies have been larger agencies in town. In fact, you’ve almost worked for ALL the big PR agencies in town! What would you tell others about what it’s like to work for some of those larger PR shops in Minneapolis?
A: Agency experience is extremely valuable. Working for a larger agency gets you variety, volume and rigor. I specifically valued my most recent agency experience for their approach to planning and how much they invested in training me. The best (seemingly) “out-of-the-box” thinking is really process driven – and therefore more arguably inside of said box. I’m a big fan of asking “what if we could…” or “why?”
Q: You’ve also had the unique experience of being an on-site contractor (with General Mills) and a solo consultant. What was your experience like? Challenges and things you enjoyed about both?
A: I loved being a contractor for General Mills, especially year one when we were creating something new. Some of my other experiences being a contractor weren’t as great but I think that was because I was using it to bridge to my next opportunity. I have found that being a full time employee gives me an opportunity to be fully entrenched in the business versus trying to balance the selling with the doing.
Q: When we met, we talked a lot about the challenges working parents face in today’s “always on” job scene. As we chatted, we both admitted we struggle in different areas. At the same time, we both also agreed we’ve found ways to make it work. What tips would you give to would-be parents about managing full-time work and being a mom?
A: The best advice I have – for anybody, in any situation – is to stop wasting your time feeling guilty. Spending time in your own head constantly going over something you did/said/didn’t do, etc. makes it more about YOU than any harm that may have come of the “transgression.” If you said something and regret it – call the person and clear the air. If you don’t feel good about where you are spending your time/energy – change it. Focusing your energy on something in the past is self-indulgent “poor me” behavior. Forgive yourself for not being perfect, make some changes if necessary and move forward – it’s what we want our kids to be able to do to, right? This is especially important with working-mom-guilt because it is so counterproductive. Good parenting happens in a zillion different ways, find the way that works for you and your situation.
Q: You also mentioned when we met you had been doing some voice-over work on the side. How did you get into that work? And, why do you make time to do it?
A: So I mentioned earlier that I love to learn and as such, I tend to be a “project person.” I decided to take on gardening a few years ago to reverse my “black thumb” tendencies and now I grow plants from seed under grow lights in my extra bedroom. I got laid off a few years ago and was only working part time as I worked to find my next opportunity so I decided to take on a new project: voiceover work. Back in college, a professor had encouraged me to pursue it but I didn’t have confidence to start cold-calling agencies and figuring out how to get into that line of business. That was also before the days of GTS – google that shit. So I did some research, found a coach, bought some equipment and dug in. I’ve even booked a few gigs but I admit it is tough to find the time to keep my skills up – it’s straight up acting and there’s nothing easy about it. But learning new things is just part of who I am.
Last week, Edelman exec, David Armano made an interesting post on LinkedIn. His question: Do you respond to everyone who reaches out to you professionally for help?
It’s a great question and one I’ve struggled with as long as I’ve been a solo (nine years and counting now!). Apparently, I’m not alone as Armano was lamenting the same thing. His strategy: He can’t respond to every inquiry so he chooses to prioritize those he’s met in person on in meaningful ways in the past.
That’s a good approach, and it got me thinking specifically about LinkedIn since I know this is a challenge for many people–no matter their age or experience level.
Do you respond to everyone who reaches out to you for help on LinkedIn?
My answer: No–with explanation.
I definitely don’t respond to every request I get to connect on LinkedIn. After all, many of those come from people who aren’t even in my industry. Or, people from random locales that I’ve never met before and have few connections in common.
So, what I try to do is be fairly selective based on a few key criteria:
Have we met in person?
If yes, that’s an easy yes. Unless you’re a Packer, Bucky or a K-State fan. Then it’s a hard no 🙂
Have we worked together in the past?
If yes, another easy yes. Unless you were that jerk who kept stealing my lunch 15 years ago. Then, you can take a flying leap.
Are you a student?
If yes, that’s yet another easy yes. Especially if you attended: 1) Winona State University (my alma mater), 2) the University of Kansas (where I went to school for a year), or 3) the University of Minnesota. I will almost always say yes to a student asking for help (if my schedule allows). I’m a firm believer in paying it forward, and this is a big way I do that. So many people helped me along the many journeys in my career–it’s my turn to repay all those favors.
Do you work in PR, communications or social media at a big company in the U.S.?
Another easy “yes.” Especially if you work in these disciplines at a big company here in the Twin Cities or Minnesota. Not just because these types of people are ideal clients for me, but because I’ve been in their shoes before and I can identify with a lot of what they go through on a day-to-day basis. Getting together for coffee is easy with this crowd.
Are you a fellow solo or independent consultant just starting out?
Another easy “yes.” Much like my student note above, so many other solos helped me get my practice off the ground nine years ago. It’s the least I can do to help those making that same transition today (and I get asked to do this a lot!).
Do you work in sales, investment banking or real estate?
Easy and hard “no.” When I need a new home, I’ll call you.
As you can see, my strategy is a bit of a mixed bag. The real trick is this: Figuring out how to not turn down what could be a serendipitious connection. For example, a number of years ago, I reached out to a guy named Jamie Plesser. At the time, he was working in digital at Best Buy. I thought he sounded like an interesting guy to meet–and he was a fellow Jayhawk fan! But, from his perspective, I’m sure I came across as a consultant looking for work. Lucky for me, Jamie took that first meeting. A few months later, we ended up serving on the MIMA board of directors together. A few months later, we were co-chairing a committee together. A few months later, we were watching KU games. A few months later, we were starting our own digital training practice. A few months later, we were vacationing together with our families.
Point is, NONE of that happens if Jamie turns down that first email outreach.
So, how do you know which of those random requests to respond to? I’m not sure there’s an easy answer to that. For me, it usually involves some research. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can usually give you a pretty good glimpse–but asking around helps, too. Sometimes it’s a leap of faith. Sometimes it’s just a risk you take. And sometimes it just doesn’t work out. There’s no foolproof strategy. A lot of it is just gut instinct.
But, I thought this was an interesting topic today because, again, I know it happens to virtually everyone.
How do YOU determine who to respond to when people reach out professionally?
photo credit: marcoverch Linkedin-Logo am PC-Monitor, durch eine Lupe fotografiert via photopin (license)
Two years ago I wrote this post. The theory: Brands no longer need to post 20 times a week to drive results in social media marketing.
Back in 2016, this was actually a somewhat progressive concept. A few brands were leading the way (Target, at the time, was the example I liked to use), but most were still playing by 2012 rules (volume > quality) and posting 20-30 times a month on Facebook.
Fast forward to 2018–nothing has changed. In fact, you could make a pretty solid argument that less is actually WAY MORE now. Volume no longer matters–not even a little. Charts and research like this confirm it:
Less is definitely more when it comes to social media content in 2018. Yet, I continue to see MANY brands completely ignoring that best practice.
Just one of many, many examples–I’ll pick on Home Depot. They had a whopping 39 posts in October on Facebook. My math’s never been great, but I believe that comes out to just under 10 posts per week. More than one per day!
What’s more, most of those posts average right around 250 engagements per post. That’s a 0.00005 percent engagement rate. Again, I’m not a math expert, but I don’t think that’s an admirable engagement rate–especially for a brand like Home Depot.
So, essentially we have a brand wasting it’s time and resources by posting 39 times to a social platform that no longer requires you to post that often. Of course, Home Depot most likely has a slew of paid social media campaigns on Facebook each month. But, that makes the decision to post so frequently to their wall even more confounding.
My theory: This is all about ego and protecting jobs.
It’s the only possible explanation. Creating all this content takes people-power. People-power that was obtained after years of trying to convince corporate bosses that we needed all these people to create social content. After all, volume was the play.
But, then things changed. Algorithms changed. The whole game changed. Paid took over. You no longer needed to post 20 times a week. However, we now had all these people instructed to create 20 new pieces of content each week. How do we justify those jobs if we now need just 2-3 pieces of social content a week?
How do I justify MY job to manage all these people if we now just need a handful of pieces of content each month? How do I explain that to my bosses?
This is what’s behind it. And, it’s flawed thinking.
Consider the opportunity cost of producing 39 pieces of content a month. Let’s say Home Depot was creating just 6-8 pieces of content for Facebook each month–a much more realistic number. Take the time/effort your team used to create the additional 30 pieces of content and sink that into creating 6-8 pieces of super-impactful content.
Or, use it to start experimenting with an emerging platform, like Instagram Stories.
Or, use it to help staff recruitment marketing, which is struggling to get a foot-hold.
Certainly, there is no shortage of opportunities for your team!