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What are the *real* incentives for employees to advocate for your brand on social media channels?

I currently work with a couple clients on managing and developing “Employer Brands” on social media.

What that means, essentially, is developing a brand that will help retain and recruit the best and brightest talent for the company.

It’s interesting work. I love it. It combines two loves of mine: employee communications and social media.

And one big part of that kind of work is figuring out how to engage and incent existing employees to advocate for the brand online.

It’s not as easy as many lead you to believe.

Chipotle Share

How many blog posts have you read with the “tip”: Activate your employees! They’re your biggest fans!

I mean, do the people writing these “tips” NOT think we know that? How stupid do you think I am? This is 2015. I’m pretty sure about 99.9% of the marketing workforce now readily understands that employees are a valuable asset when it comes to social media promotion.

Yet, you still hear the tip.

What you DON’T hear nearly as much about, is how, exactly, you would go about doing that.

And, that’s what I want to talk about today.

HOW do you encourage employees to share your message? HOW do you incent them? HOW do you set up a program that aligns employees with your core goals and strategies?

There are certainly a plethora of tools out there that will help you do just that. And, some of them are flat-out fantastic.

But, they’re just tools. Without a strategy for HOW you’re going to encourage and potentially, reward, your employees to share, your big employee advocacy plan is going to fall flat on its face.

It just is.

So, how do you do it? I’d like to offer up four thought starters:

Incent them with product

I’ve seen this work well on numerous occasions. And, the logic makes sense. If you work for a company that “produces” something (computers, phones, furniture, etc.), chances are your employees actually like/enjoy that product. If they didn’t, they’d probably be working some place else. But, they work for your company. They believe in your products. So, why not use those products as an incentive to encourage employees to post via social? Internal contests/sweepstakes are the logical choice here.

Build on employee pride during key moments

Maybe your brand has a Super Bowl commercial for the first time ever. Wouldn’t that be the perfect moment to play on employee pride? Or, what about a new product launch at a major conference? Same deal. Think about key events and moments that make your employees proud to work for your firm–and play on that.

Include personal asks

Instead of always trying to scale, think about how you can make it personal. A one-to-one email can go a long ways with an employee. Plus, all these personal asks add up over time. Once you engage one employee, he or she becomes just a bit more of an advocate. Do that 20 times and you have a little group of employees who are all promoting your content. That might not scale for a company with hundreds of thousands of employees, but most companies don’t have hundreds of thousands of employees. Just 20 employees promoting content would make a big difference for those companies.

Make it all about their personal brand

If you can somehow figure out a way to help employees build their personal brands, while at the same time helping you promote content–you’ve got the secret sauce! Now, the trick is not making their personal brand so big they find other employment–at least, that’s the concern I hear from folks all the time. My comeback: you’re going to lose star employees. It’s a fact of life. Focus on challenging these superstars and giving them opportunities to grow and they’ll stick around longer. So, back to the point at hand: How do you create these win-win situations? What about hand-picking 30 employees to serve as your chief brand ambassadors online? Your chief promoters. This way, you’re giving them a title they can leverage for future opportunities. And, much like I said above, you’re getting a small army of people out there shouting your message from the mountaintops. Win-win.

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Why “creative” job titles won’t lead to a better career path

Digital Marketing Magician.

Senior Road Warrior Marketing Intern

Mobile Sensei

Digital Overlord

Wizard of Light Bulb Moments

Dream Alchemist

LI profile

We’re all seen these types of job titles on LinkedIn, right? And, most of the people I know would scoff at these.

Yet, they seem to be popping up in increasing numbers lately.


Maybe because they allow people to personalize their resumes a bit more.

Maybe because they allow people to be a bit more creative.

Maybe because they allow people to show a little personality in their LinkedIn profiles.

Except here’s the thing: They’re not going to do a darn thing for your career.

Why? Because the people doing the hiring (read: those over 35/40 years old) don’t find them creative, interesting or even a bit humorous.

They think they’re ridiculous.

Now, I’m not going to speak for all hiring managers (even though I guess maybe I just did), but I would think most senior-level managers who hire a “digital marketing magicians” would find that job title just a bit far-fetched and over-the-top.

You know what senior-level business leaders are really looking for when they hire junior to mid-level talent?

People who know how to get crap done.

People who know how to work as part of a team–but also take initiative.

And, bottom line: People who deliver results. Time and time again.

That’s what’s going to catch their eye–not a creative job title.

So, instead of working hours on end coming up with a creative and fun job title, why not put that time into focusing on the more important area of your resume: The results.

Managers typically like to see the following in a junior-level resume:

  • Leads driven by your most recent digital marketing campaign.
  • Number of impressions and engagements generated by your most recent social media campaign.
  • Or, what about references from people you’ve worked for–or with–in the past?

That’s the kind of thing managers are going to look for in a resume. Not a fancy job title.

So, the next time you’re updating your resume and you’re thinking of adding a creative job title, don’t.

Resist the urge. Instead, focus on that time on the items within your resume your future manager WILL be paying attention to.

Believe me, you’ll thank me later.

photo credit: Jugando a inventar nuestro juego via photopin (license)


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Talking Points Podcast: Is social media officially dead?

In this edition of the Talking Points Podcast, Kevin and I talk about Josh Bernoff’s recent post claiming that social media is dead–and that we should burn it down and start over. It’s a bold claim, and one we discuss in depth. We also talk about a new Pew Internet Research report featuring the latest social media demos and a presentation I gave at a PR conference in Florida recently on digital trends impacting the PR world.

Talking Pts Podcast

SHOW NOTES – August 27, 2015

“Burn It Down, Start From Scratch And Build a Social Media Strategy That Works”


“Augie Ray, can we admit now that social media marketing is dead?”


SPOTLIGHT: “Case study: How the Minnesota Pork Board dispelled myths with “urban foodie” influencers”


“Mobile Messaging and Social Media 2015”


“9 Digital Trends Reshaping PR”


SHOUTOUT: Karen Fries, Annie’s


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Case study: How the Minnesota Pork Board dispelled myths with “urban foodie” influencers

Influencer outreach. Its still one of those tactics that’s often talked about by companies and agencies, but rarely executed well.

How do I know? I get the pitches. And, I hear/read about other people getting the pitches.

Most influencer outreach is horribly executed. And, it’s hard work.


It’s time consuming. It’s heavily predicated on long-standing relationships. And, it’s risky.

But, when it’s done well, it can be a boon to companies and clients.

Now, I don’t toot my own horn very often on this blog. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I shared a client case study on this blog (OK, it was Bike Walk Move a couple years ago).

But today, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Because I am so damn proud of a project I worked on earlier this year with broadhead (a local MSP agency) and the Minnesota Pork Board (to be clear, broadhead contracted me to help with this project; they are the primary agency with the MN Pork).

Let’s break this case study down in simple terms:

The challenge

To engage “urban foodies” across the Twin Cities with pork farmers to talk about the range of issues (some quite controversial) surrounding pig farming.

The strategy

Create a local event where we could facilitate an active conversation–both offline and online–between these “urban foodies/influencers” and pork farmers in a more fun and informal setting. We also wanted to drive more online conversations through a hosted Twitter chat with a local Minneapolis influencer who was attached to the local food scene.

The strategy within the strategy

Typically, we would have started our influencer event by targeting an A-list group of local influencers. That wasn’t necessarily our strategy. Instead, we hypothesized there were three key ingredients to a successful event:

1)  Procure one A-list online celebrity-type in the food space to serve as our emcee for the event, and our co-host for the Twitter chat (and pay that person, if necessary).

pig3d IG 2

2) Instead of targeting A-listers who are over-harvested and not quite as engaging online as they’d have you believe (and, keep in mind, influencers we’d probably need to pay to engage), we decided to target that next level down. The real “urban foodies” who had fewer followers, but were among the most engaging folks across the Twin Cities.

3) Host the event at a high-profile, can’t-miss venue that is firmly attached to the pork industry.

The execution

We started by searching for a venue. Again–the venue had to be well-known, hip and also be connected to the pork industry. We could have went with more benign option (an event space like Aria), but we instead chose a local restaurant with an amazing outdoor experience: Butcher & the Boar. We chose this venue because:

1) They were connected to pork–featuring it like no other restaurant in town.

2) They had a fantastic outdoor space we could use to hold the event (see below).

3) B&B has that “it” factor right now. It’s a top-flight restaurant in Minneapolis and we knew we could use that as a draw for our targeted influencers.


We then began the process of researching our influencers. Remember, we weren’t targeting “A listers.” Instead, we were targeting more everyday folks. The real urban foodies. As I thought about it, I really wanted to target people like me! After all, I am an urban foodie. My wife and I live in south Minneapolis and dine at many of the restaurants that are named in list after list of must-hit restaurants. Sure, the list included a few food bloggers and media folks (Amanda Paa and Crystal Grobe, for example). But, for the most part, these were ordinary, everyday folks with a bit larger social footprints than most. People like Lindsi Gish, Maggie Lamaack and Mykl Roventine.

Then, we needed to think about how we were going to approach them. What was in it for them? Why would they attend? We figured many of these people didn’t get pitched that often. So, we played up the exclusivity angle of the event (an invite-only evening on the B&B patio). We played up the food and drinks (again, B&B is a hugely popular place in Minneapolis). And, we played up the fact that it was going to be fun (trivia and a meat raffle! More of that in a moment). Pretty tough to say no to a free night out at one of the city’s top restaurants? In return, all we asked was that they tweet and Instagram their evening, as they saw fit. Nothing more (just like Laura Fitzpatrick did below).

pig3d IG 1

Next, we had to find an emcee. A straw to stir the drink, if you will. But again, it had to be someone who was connected to the Twin Cities food scene. WCCO’s Jason DeRusha came to mind immediately. Not only was he an “A list” food influencer in town, I had also seen Jason emcee events before and he was outstanding. I had lunch with Jason to gauge his interest (at Revival no less!), and a couple weeks later, we were making the official ask. Keep in mind, we did pay Jason.

Next, we started to map out the event “run of show”. What would we actually do at this event? We knew we wanted to facilitate conversations between the influencers and the pig farmers. But, we also knew we needed to make the event fun! So, we started with a good 30-45 minutes for drinks/introductions. And, we wanted to give people enough time to get to B&B on a Monday night after work. Next, Jason kicked things off with a few quick introductions and B&B chef, Jeff Kipp, also took a few moments to talk about the restaurant and how they work with local farmers to source their pork. Midway through dinner, we then started the trivia (my partners at broadhead had the idea to include trivia as part of the evening–brilliant!). We had questions around pop culture (which hit on the influencer’s interests) and also pig farming facts (which opened up the conversation about pig farming). This came to life a bit more because we organized seating for the event pairing pig farmers with specific influencers. Finally, we also included a #meatraffle at the end of the evening where we selected a handful of lucky influencers who walked away with a box full of pork (straight from the pig farmers’ farms in attendance).

pig3d IG 3

Finally, we organized a Twitter chat a week later with Jason serving as the guest host. We scripted out the entire chat featuring six questions that got at the heart of some pretty “meaty” pig farming questions. We then asked a number of pig farmers to participate, as well as our influencers (if they had time). We extended our reach by asking Jason to promote the chat in advance–with the carrot of another #meataffle where we’d give away a few more boxes of meat.

The results

The #Pig3D event at Butcher & the Boar drew:

274 tweets (using #pig3d hash tag)

80 Instagram pics uploaded

49 Facebook pics uploaded

1,477,565 impressions

We even trended on Twitter:

#Pig3D 11

And, most importantly: Six influencers are in process of setting up farm visits with our pig farmers (the big win of the evening)

These tweets/posts give you a glimpse into how the evening went:

#Pig3D 1


#Pig3D 12


#Pig3D 14


#Pig3D 16


#Pig3D 17

The Twitter chat drew:

  • 518 tweets
  • 1,577,994 impressions
  • And again, some great discussions between urban foodies and pig farmers (in this case, the anecdotal tweets probably were a better “metric” than the hard-and-fast numbers).

pig3d twitter 1


pig3d twitter 2


pig3d twitter 3


All in all, two really successful events. I know the metrics aren’t all that impressive when you compare them against some of the national influencer outreach campaigns and Twitter chats we’ve seen over the years. But, keep in mind, we were just targeting urban foodies in the Twin Cities. That’s a much smaller audience–and considering that, our metrics came out way ahead of what we were expecting. More importantly, the MN Pork Board was thrilled with the opportunity to open up real conversations with those urban foodies–and they will have the chance to get a few of those folks on their farms in the weeks ahead for a visit.

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5 things I’m working on to better myself in my 43rd year

Today’s my birthday. Yeah, yeah, save it for Facebook :)

I’m 43 years old today. Damn, that sounds really old writing that down.

Recently, I started thinking more about how I could improve myself in the year ahead. You see, my birthday is kinda like most people’s New Year’s Day. I look at it as a chance to look back at the year behind me, and look forward to the year ahead.

More specifically, areas of my life I could improve.


I’ve always been one of those people who loves to get better at things. Classic over-achiever. Which is perfect for me, because I would say I’m really not that talented at much of anything.

The only way I ever excelled even a bit on the golf course (I played collegiate golf) was by practicing more than my peers.

The only way I was even on the varsity basketball team (that was ranked #2 my entire senior year), was by out-hustling almost every other player on the team.

And the only way I have a business today is by working my butt off day-in and day-out.

Trust me, nothing I’ve got in life is because of talent.

So, as I look ahead to the rest of 2015 and 2016, I thought, I need to improve in a lot of ways. But, interestingly enough, very few of them had to do with business.

And although I know this is a PR/marketing blog, I thought I’d share these ideas with you. Partly because it’s a way of holding myself accountable. And partly because I just want to say it “out loud.”

Here goes.

1–Drink more water. Drink less beer.


I know, seems crazy, right? I’m actually in process of giving beer up completely for a month. Not because I’m overweight. Not because I’m an alcoholic. Just because it made me feel like crap. So, I’m giving it up til mid-Sept. And, even when I come back, I’m only going to drink sparingly (I’m thinking like maybe 1-2 beers a week). Meanwhile, I’ve upped the water intake. It’s made a huge difference already. I feel lighter. I think more clearly. I feel *better.*

2–Swim. And yoga.


I also recently started swimming again. Just 15-20 laps at a time–maybe 2-3 times a week. But, you’d be surprised the difference that makes. I’m not a professional swimmer. I’m not even a good swimmer. But, I really like it. And, it clears my mind. I also recently started a quick 15-minute yoga routine in the morning. Get this: I’m a subscriber to a yoga YouTube channel (Brett Larkin yoga, if you’re interested). I’m starting with just the quick beginner morning routine. But again, so far, it’s really helped. I feel looser. My brain feels clearer. And, I think I’m sharper. Keep in mind, I’m just a week in.

3–Re-start my journal.

I was picking through our bedroom recently and stumbled on a journal I had kept during the time right around our wedding. It was full of interesting thoughts and ideas I had almost forgotten about. And, it inspired me to get that going again. Just a couple quick grafs before bedtime. I write as the last thing before I hit the lights. It’s a nice way to recap the day, reflect and for me, unwind. And, it forced me to buy a new Moleskine. So, there’s that :)

4–Play more golf.


I’ve been saying this for years. And, I’ll never quite get back to playing numerous times a week until my kids get a little oder. But, for now, I’m committing to playing more. That means: Playing more than 3 times a year (for now). I have pretty much given up golf since my kids were born. My theory: I hardly see my kids during the week–the weekend is the only time I have with them. So, it’s tough to give up 6 hours to go play 18 holes of golf on the weekends. Just felt selfish. And, I wanted that time with my kids. Soon enough, they’ll be sick of me, and I’ll have my weekend rounds back. For now, I just want to play a little more. I’d even settle for twice a month. (Note: Photo above is from Winona State University team I was on my freshman year when we went to nationals in Indiana).

5–Practice spirituality.

Now, I’m not a religious man. Never have been. Probably never will be. But, I am a *spiritual* man. I’m a believer. I’m just not a believer in one specific brand of religion. I’ve actually always found myself drawn to the principles of Buddism, so I’m reading a few more books on that topic. I’m planning to practice meditation a bit this fall. And in general, just get more connected with my “spirituality”–whatever that looks like. This is the fuzziest of all the goals for me–but I’m looking forward to where it takes me.

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