Yesterday, I presented at what is becoming an annual event for Minnesota PRSA–it’s digital storytelling workshop. It was chock full of insights from some of the smartest people in our industry–from Scott Severson at Brandpoint to Bridget Jewell at Periscope to Erin MacMillian with General Mills.
My topic: Social media trends. Specifically, I talked about eight social media trends you should be paying attention to for the rest of 2019.
And, unlike other trend posts, I tried to put a little context and meaning behind my predictions. For starters, I tried to back every trend up with facts and stats from across the web. Second, I used a variety of examples–case studies of brands bringing the trend to life. And finally, I tried to offer up some pragmatic advice–i.e., here’s what this trend means for you and here’s what I think you should be doing as a result.
If you have 10 minutes, take a spin through the deck below and let me know what you might add to my trend list!
If you’ve worked in the social media marketing world for more than five minutes, you know how most brands treat “engagement” on Twitter.
I’ll simplify: When it comes to engagement, Twitter has become a full-on customer service channel managed by the customer service team.
Just take a peek at Macy’s account:
Pretty typical for a corporate Twitter account in 2019 (at least among larger brands).
There’s not a lot of human touch to responses like this. In fact, it’s pretty close to automated responses via AI at this point (and, in fact, if you DM many brands on Facebook, that’s exactly what you’ll get!).
And, more and more people are turning to social for customer support. 1 in 3 social media users prefer social media customer care services to telephone or email. And an estimated 67% of consumers now use social media networks like Twitter to seek resolution for issues.
Yep, in 2019, brands “engaging” with customers just isn’t as fun and interesting as it was 5-6 years ago. It’s all about customer service.
Enter Target and its branded gifs.
Target has done something brilliant–but exceedingly simple–on Twitter. It’s created a series of branded gifs its community management team can use in a variety of responses to customers. Case in point below.
— Target (@Target) June 17, 2019
Another great example–this “aww” gif, which could be used in a variety of responses:
— Target (@Target) June 17, 2019
What’s so smart about using gifs in responses on Twitter? After all, this isn’t a new concept.
First, because most of the gifs feature actual Target team members (educated guess), they “warm up” the persona of the Target brand on Twitter. It adds a “human-ness” to the brand that’s typically missing in social (sadly). What’s more, the gifs even feature a diverse mix of team members. More proof Target has put a lot of thought behind this.
Second, branding gifs makes all the sense in the world. Many brands do use gifs in responses on Twitter–but they’re using existing gifs featuring characters on the Office or the Simpsons (I love a good Mr. Burns gif!).
On the other hand, these are gifs of actual Target team members (again, that’s my guess) so they’re building the brand with every response.
Finally, these gifs were most likely (another educated guess) created in one photo shoot–and I’m also guessing maybe they piggy-backed on an existing photo shoot to grab a slew of these gifs. This way, one simple photo shoot = 15-20 gifs their community team can use for MONTHS afterward. Great use of resources. Great approach to bolster community and engagement.
— Target (@Target) June 15, 2019
They even created a few gifs that were even more generic with no team members–gifs they could use in a wider variety of responses. I like this because it’s yet another content asset for the community team to use for…well…probably more than a year!
Now, the true brilliance of Target using these gifs is this: They don’t use them in every response. In fact, they only use them in roughly 1 in every 15-20 responses. So, they’re unique and special! They easily could use these gifs in responding to many more tweets, but in reserving them for 1-2 responses a day, they’re creating a little bit of exclusivity. Like “we respond with these gifs” every time–you are special to us. That’s personalization 101, folks. That’s what customers want–to feel special.
And Target is nailing it with these branded gifs on Twitter. Kudos!
One question I’ve consistently heard from companies re: social media marketing over the last 10 years of consulting has simply been: What are other companies doing with their social media teams?
Implied in that comment are the following sub-questions:
- Where do these social media teams sit in the organization? Who do they report up through?
- How many people should be on our social media team? What should the titles be?
- What should our social media team be responsible for?
Remember, social media is still a relatively new thing–it’s only been around for 10 years or so now. So, I don’t think it’s all that surprising that companies are asking all these kinds of questions about how to build and nurture a social media team.
Rhonda Hughes, head of social at SurveyMonkey, recently took the initiative and polled her friends and colleagues about what other social teams look like. In total, Rhonda collected almost 300 responses (not bad!).
There were four big takeaways:
- Companies still don’t know where to put social–was split fairly evenly among comms, digital, social media, brand and content.
- Most social teams are small–27% of companies had just one social person; 23% had 2 and 16% had 3; that’s a full 66% of companies with 3 social people or fewer! On the flip side, only 11% of companies had 11 or more social employees.
- Social teams are under-resourced. When asked if they were adding headcount this year 29% said yes, 24% said no and 47% said: “I wish”.
- The laundry list of items social media teams are responsible for is long–and growing. Broadly speaking, 60% of respondents said their team oversees both paid and organic social strategy. 43% also manage global social media across both U.S. and international. But, they had a huge list of activities in here that social teams managed–speaks to #3 above.
These results don’t tell us anything we didn’t essentially already know.
We knew social didn’t necessarily sit in one consistent spot in the organization.
We knew most social teams were 1-2 person bands.
We certainly new social teams were under-resourced.
And, we’re all well aware of the laundry list of tasks and to-dos social teams are responsible for on a day-in, day-out basis.
So, what are the takeaways here? I have a few takes based on my experiences working with social teams over the last 10 years:
- Social should sit in marketing, but be run by comms people. Controversial take right out of the gate! 🙂 I think social should sit in marketing for one big reason–budget. Let’s not beat around the bush–marketing teams have money. Comms usually have to fight tooth-and-nail for budget. I’ve seen this scenario play out way too many times for it not to be an almost-universal truth. I also think social teams should be run by people with comms (or journalism, in some cases) backgrounds. Look at some of the social media teams in the Twin Cities–they’re led by and made up of former journalists (Sue Serna at Cargill, Kevin Hunt at General Mills, and a host of folks over at Best Buy).
- Focus on three key positions: Strategist, content builder and analyst. If I were building a social team, these would be the three key positions I would build around. Why? I would never want to outsource strategy–I’d always want that in-house. And, a great content builder is worth his or her weight in gold in 2019. I’d search for a journalist looking to make the transition or someone with a journo background. And, a good analyst is key to merchandising our work across the company and making sure we’re measuring the right stuff. I’ve seen this go terribly wrong when measurement is left to agency partners–again, I want that skill in-house. I’d outsource the rest–even community, potentially, if I had to.
- Laser focus on four key areas: Content creation, strategy, community and measurement. I realize those are broad areas, but I also think focus is absolutely key to running a good social team. I mean, starting an employee social media advocacy program, for example, could easily derail your team for six months! Remember the laundry list of tasks and to-dos above. It’s pretty long, right? I think a lot of times, our own ambition and want to please our bosses is what contributes to these additional tasks. Whereas if we continued to focus on these four key areas, I think the results would be much more impactful.
Last week I brought my son to the orthodontist for his regular check-in. We had an 8 a.m. appointment. Great–early in the day, I thought. They’ll surely be on time.
In the past, this particular ortho has decidedly NOT been on time. Like never. I once waited an hour with my son to get in.
But, I was optimistic. Turns out, that didn’t last long. We waited 30 minutes to get in. Then, I waited another 30 minutes for him to complete an appointment that took a grand total of 5 minutes.
Think about the customer experience of that visit for my son–and me.
Not ideal, right? Borderline terrible. And, keep in mind, we didn’t get a single apology, or even a “thanks for being patient”–from anyone.
I posted about my experience on Facebook, lamenting how broken our health care system is. To my surprise my friends came back with a host of other industries where this lack of customer service and experience matters–home construction, cable TV companies, credit card companies and hair salons (that one surprised me).
And you know what? They’re absolutely right.
Despite all the buzz about “customer experience” in the marketing world, the cold hard truth is this: Most companies and industries suck at customer experience and service.
In fact, it’s a huge surprise when you DO have a great customer experience!
If you’re a chicken sandwich fan, think about your last trip to Chick-Fil-A. You were greeted warmly. They got your order right (probably). And the employee who served you most likely then said “my pleasure.” It was fast. It was easy. And it was pleasant. Not too hard, right? But yet, that experience stands out. Why? Because everyone else is so horrible.
Stats say that poor customer service is costing companies upwards of $75 billion a year. That’s up $13 billion from 2016. Yikes.
The result? Customers are turning into “serial switchers.”
And, apparently, brands (and entire industries) don’t seem to care.
Think about a few of the companies you may interact with semi-regularly.
Your internet provider, for example. Our internet was on the fritz a couple weeks ago. I had to figure out what was up. As you might guess, that required a 45-minute phone conversation before it was fixed. Not a great customer experience.
What about your bank? One of my banks (which shall remain nameless) is making the transition to all online banking. In that effort, apparently, they’re just stopping using deposit slips at branches. I know this because I visited the branch recently to deposit a check and was told they wouldn’t be taking in-person deposits anymore (the teller even handed me a stack of deposit slips so I could use them in the weeks ahead). Meanwhile, this particular bank has a HORRIBLE online experience. This is the same bank that made a big deal recently about “online banking” (welcome to the 21st century lame bank!).
Your favorite local restaurant? We had dinner at a relatively well-known local restaurant here in South Minneapolis recently. We had a lovely meal. Bought a bottle of wine. We were enjoying ourselves. Until the manager came over and asked us to switch tables. Apparently, our table was reserved for someone else at a certain time and we had been at the table too long (just over an hour, as it turns out). Needless to say, we won’t be going back to that restaurant. And, they didn’t seem to care at all.
No, great customer service and experience is definitely the outlier in 2019. And that’s a sad thing.
Last December, I celebrated my tenth year of blogging. Whoops, I guess I forgot to pop that bottle of champagne! I’m usually a sentimental guy, but apparently when it comes to my blog I lost that capacity.
At any rate, I got around to reflecting on 10 years of blogging recently. I’ve written more than 1,200 blog posts in that timespan. With an average of 600 words per post that’s a whopping 720,000 words! Of course, that’s probably the equivalent of one John Grisham book, so I probably shouldn’t get too haughty! 🙂
When I started this blog, I would have never dreamed where it would have led me. For example:
- My blog really led to me starting my own business–now also in its 10th year! A complete life-changer for me and my family.
- I’ve been asked to speak at a number of events over the years in locales like Seattle, Destin, Tampa, Las Vegas and many in the Minneapolis area. I’m by no means on the “speaker circuit” but I love to present and enjoy every opportunity!
- My blog led to me meeting Jason Falls, who was helping manage a piece of BlogWorld at the time. I started helping him out, which led to many new relationships and me seeing a number of Cirque du Soleil shows in Vegas and Los Angeles thanks to then marketing lead, Jess Berlin!
- Many times, my blog led to developing new relationships–probably the biggest and most interesting benefit over the years. Way too many to note here, but a few of my far-flung faves have been: Allan Schoenberg (B2B Voices forever baby!), Heather Whaling (now in her 10th year of owning her own small agency in Columbus), Kellye Crane (founder of Solo PR Pro and one of the true saints of the social media world), Kevin Dugan (only met once, but wish I would have had more time with him), and Jason Falls.
Over the last 10 years, I’ve also learned a ton–about blogging, about social media, about writing, and about human behavior. As I reflected back, these 10 lessons came to mind:
1 – Follow your heart–not other people’s advice
When I started my business almost 10 years ago now, many people said “you’ll have to change what you blog about now–it has to be all about your business!” I always rejected that notion. And I’m so glad I did. Sure, I write about issues and ideas that link back to services I provide. But, I also write about things that interest me–like the #StarbucksCup fiasco a couple weeks ago! There’s no one formula to blogging. I say follow your heart, and your interests. See where it leads.
2 – Write in the moment!
One of my favorite stories from my blog is the time I wrote about Sons of Anarchy. At the time (2013) it was my favorite show on TV. I was addicted. So, I “hot wrote” a post about how many characters on the show actually live by the PRSA code of ethics. It was a complete throwaway post. But, I loved the show, so it was fun and easy to write. I don’t remember that post getting a ton of traction, but a couple days later, the show’s creator, Kurt Sutter, tweeted the post. I was floored. Kurt-freaking-Sutter! All because I wrote in the moment.
3 – Use your voice (and your blog) for good
In 2009, the economy was in a rough spot. Many of my friends were looking for work. I wanted to help. So, I organized a “tweet-a-thon” for two friends who were looking for work. I asked friends from across the country to get involved and tweet throughout the day to support my friends. And, while the tweet-a-thon didn’t directly lead to a job for either friend, it buoyed their spirits and did, eventually, lead to a positive outcome! About a week later, the two friends told me because of the work I had done, they were flying me out to Washington D.C. to attend an event called BlogPotomac–a blogging event I was dying to go to. We had a chance to meet face-to-face at the event and to this day, I continue to call both friends.
4 – Open new doors with your blog
I can’t tell you how many times my blog has helped me open new doors in my life. My PR/Social Media Rock Star series alone has introduced me to so many fantastic people over the years. Two of the first rock stars I featured–Sarah Reckard and LeeAnn Rasachak–are both now good friends I’ve known for 10+ years! Over the years, I think I’ve featured something like 100+ rock stars on this blog. Some of those folks are friends. Others are now clients. And, more importantly, I’ve had a chance to sit down and meet with almost every single one of them. What an honor and opportunity.
5 – Don’t get too caught up in trying to make it perfect
We’ve all seen the surveys that talk about how long it should take you to write a blog post (somewhere in the 4-6 hour range is what I’ve read). Surely, you want to allot time for research, writing, editing and proofing. Just don’t allot too much time. And, don’t get caught up in trying to make it 100% perfect. I got a piece of advice once from a colleague that I absolutely love: “Your 80% is good enough 99% of the time.” It doesn’t have to be perfect. That’s not to say you shouldn’t edit and proof. Just don’t spend 10 hours on it.
6 – Track your analytics but don’t live and die by them
Yes, I track my analytics. Weekly. And yes, I pay close attention to who’s reading what and how my numbers are fluctuating. And yeah, those numbers have dictated some content decisions over the years. But, analytics don’t rule my blog. I don’t let them control me–or my decisions. They’re merely one piece of information I absorb to make decisions. I also look at the way people interact with my content on social media. I also listen to how people talk about my blog when I meet up with people during coffees. It all plays a role in the decisions I make about my blog. My advice: Just don’t get too serious about tracking your analytics and making decisions based solely on them. That can be dangerous.
7 – Always have your blog brain on
You know how you can tell someone is a blogger? They always have their blog brain on? I realized this early on–because blogging inspiration can come from anywhere. At a lunch meeting with a friend. During a conference call with a client. Reading industry articles on Digiday. If you always have your blog brain on, you’ll never run out of ideas. I find many of my ideas recently coming from two spots: articles I see shared from friends and colleagues on LinkedIn; and stories in the hard-copy newspaper. Wherever your inspiration comes from, just make sure you’re always thinking about that blog. Sometimes, the ideas come from strange places.
8 – Realize you and your blog will (and should) evolve over time
There’s no rule saying you can’t change the rules on your blog whenever you want. Over the last 10 years, I’ve seen my blog evolve in many ways. First, the name has changed! Formerly Communications Conversations, I renamed it The Talking Points Blog a couple years ago. I’ve modified my cadence over the years. I used to post 3-5 times a week, back when volume was the key. Today, I shoot for 1-2 times a week. My focused has evolved, too. Years ago, I took a more national approach, featuring people and companies from across the country. A few years back I shifted that strategy to hone in more on people and companies right here in Minnesota (or, the Upper Midwest at the very least).