It’s always extremely rewarding when one of your former clients excels in the area in which you coached them. In this case, the former client is the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. And, they continue to succeed in the area where I helped coach them a few years ago: Using Facebook as a tool to educate and inform its registrants.
I actually worked arm-in-arm with a local agency–Tunheim Partners and David Erickson, Blois Olson and Kristin Lenander (all of whom have moved on to other roles since)–on this work. Our approach was simple: 1) Help ARRT determine which social platforms made the most sense for their business in terms of solidifying the organization’s position as the gold standard for ensuring quality patient care by radiologic technologists, 2) Help ARRT determine what kinds of content to share on these channels, and 3) Coach ARRT staff on how to best manage these channels on a long-term basis.
That was four years ago. Since then, ARRT has performed quite well. They’ve built a community of 22,000-plus RTs on its Facebook page–not bad for a professional organization/registry, right?
But, what’s most interesting to me about ARRT is a lot of what they are doing WELL flies directly in the face of all the Facebook advice you hear from “social media gurus” and “social media ninjas” (OK, I just wanted to say “social media ninjas right there).
Let’s take a look at five popular Facebook myths and how ARRT completely destroys them:
Myth #1: You have to post every day on Facebook to be successful
The post below was ARRT’s ONLY post in the month of October 2013. And keep in mind, this isn’t really a post–they merely updated their cover pic. But, you can see below, it still solicited 167 likes and 43 shares–without a dime of paid support. So, you tell me: Does ARRT really have to post every day to be successful on Facebook?
Myth #2: You need to advertise on Facebook to be successful
As far as I can tell, ARRT is not promoting any posts. And they haven’t the last couple years. Yet, somehow they have 22,000-plus fans. Weird, huh? Not when you think about who they are and what they do. I remember, in our initial research for ARRT we found that RTs are online–in droves. So, we know they’re “wired in” as Zuck would say. And, we also know they’re a tight-knit group. And one that’s proud of the profession. ARRT knows this, and uses it to rally its troops–just like in the post below. All they’re doing here is playing to that pride factor–and you can see the results. Who needs paid support, when you have fans that WANT to support your organization?
Myth #3: Your posts need to be short to be successful
The following post, made by ARRT on Nov. 7, 2013, as 1,107 characters (without spaces). According to some “reports”, the ideal status update is just 225 characters. Let’s take a look at a few other status updates by ARRT: Nov. 6, 2013: 1,991 characters (107 likes, 8 comments); Nov. 5, 2013: 1,335 characters (82 likes, 1 comment); and Nov. 4, 2013: 1,360 characters (225 likes, 8 comments, 38 shares). Again, all posts with NO paid support (again, by my guess). So, you tell me: Is 225 characters the ideal character length for ARRT posts?
Myth #4: You need to see real ROI in order to be successful
Don’t let anyone fool you: No one can determine what ROI looks like for your organization when it comes to Facebook marketing, but you. For a professional and credentialing organization like ARRT, ROI doesn’t mean selling more widgets (although it could mean getting more people certified). My guess (because I don’t really know–it’s been four years now since I worked with ARRT) is that ROI is a more fluid term for ARRT. They most likely look at Facebook as a tool that helps them educate their membership and keep them informed. And, as a way to polish up the already sterling reputation the organization has. If you look at Facebook that way, what ARRT is doing makes complete sense. And they’re doing it successfully.
Myth #5: All Facebook posts now need a visual in order to be successful.
You hear it all the time: If you don’t post a visual with your status update, don’t bother publishing. While that is good advice for many brands, in ARRT’s case, it’s simply not true. Just look at the government update they posted last March below. Critical news for the RT audience. And given the importance of the text–they simply don’t need a visual. I would probably argue a visual would have helped here a bit, but the reality is, with engagement numbers like that (again, unpaid), they don’t need it.
You remember that Seinfeld episode? The one where George lands the job with the NY Yankees? Remember how he got the job? By doing the opposite.
Brilliant, right? For George, his whole life had been a series of bad decisions. By simply flipping his thinking and doing the opposite, he had to be right, right?
Real life’s not that easy, obviously. And, in the marketing world, life is certainly more complex. But, let’s think about this opposite thing for a minute and how it relates to companies and social media.
Let’s just look at a few of the typical company approaches to social tools and strategies and what would happen if some of these companies actually did the opposite–just like George did:
Let’s write a blog post about the cool new project our engineering department is putting together.
Do the Opposite
Write a blog post about the problems this new project solves for your customers–from THEIR perspective (not yours). In fact, why not give a specific customer (maybe one who interacts with you regularly on Twitter) an interview opportunity with one of the team members and ask THEM to write the blog post?
Let’s tweet this event one of our partner organizations is facilitating.
Do the Opposite
Might be valuable information to your customers/audience, but I’d actually go a different direction with this one (maybe not the opposite direction, but hang with me here). I’d live tweet the event–from your perspective. And put some personality behind it. Get some pics at the event. Share some “overheard” quips. By live tweeting the event, you’re giving those who don’t have a chance to attend a glimpse from afar.
Let’s share this “viral video” our marketing department created on Facebook.
Do the Opposite
Viral videos don’t exist. If it really was “viral” you’d have little reason to share it on your own Facebook page. Instead, look for discussion topics your Facebook community actually cares about and play to those. Don’t know what those are? Just ask them! Create content your customers value.
We should share this great research report with our Facebook community.
Do the Opposite
Your Facebook community is typically made up of your biggest supporters. In many cases, you don’t have to “convert” them. Instead, generate content with that lens on (they’re your biggest fans). For example, one of my clients is a bike advocacy group. On our Facebook page, we typically don’t try to convince these people to bike more–we assume they already are. Instead, we play to that pride factor–that they are huge bike proponents and want to help us spread the message.
Note: Photo courtesy of abeckstrom via FlickR Creative Commons.
Today’s guest post comes from Laura Bower a power-packed PR counselor from the great city of Knoxville (hoping to get to K-ville soon!). Her topic–a controversial and hot one: Fifty Shades of Grey, which is absolutely off-the-charts when it comes to the trend meter. Let’s hear what Laura has to say about the book and how it relates to PR and social media.
“Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot.” – D.H. Lawrence
When D.H. Lawrence’s scandalous novel, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, was first published in 1928, it was printed privately in Florence, Italy. In fact, the British author’s notorious book with its sexually explicit content was not published in the UK until 1960. Even then, Penguin Books was put on trial for publishing a novel that had been smuggled into Great Britain from France and Italy for decades. According to Geoffrey Robertson QC of The Guardian, “the acquittal was a victory for moral relativism and sexual tolerance, as well as for literary freedom.”
In the three months after the trial of Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Penguin sold 3 million copies of the book – an example of what would later be described as “the Spycatcher effect” by which the attempt to suppress a book through litigation actually increases its notoriety and subsequent sales.
Almost 85 years later, another British author, E.L. James, published her salacious soft-porn novel, Fifty Shades of Grey, selling over a million copies in 11 weeks, 25 weeks faster than the previous record holder, The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown. Global sales for the series are in excess of 20 million, according to Random House. And people say print is dead. James was also the first author to sell more than a million copies via Kindle. Perhaps print has just gone paperless.
Originally released through Coffee House Press in Australia, James’ trilogy took off virally via fan fiction sites and literary social networking hubs like Goodreads. Mainstream social media soon embraced the erotic novel. A cursory Twitter search reveals dozens of feeds from the “official” @fiftyshadesUK to parody accounts like @ChristianTGrey and @JasonTaylorGEH, Mr. Grey’s head of security and driver, according to his Twitter bio.
The digital word-of-mouth spread, generating mega-media coverage, which focused on the peculiarity of soft-core porn finding an eager audience among suburban housewives. Vintage Books subsequently acquired the “mommy porn” series. Universal Studios snatched up the film rights for a sum rumored to be in the multimillions.
Rather than debate the degradation and/or empowerment of women via the “kinky f***ery” of Fifty Shades of Grey or its predecessor, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, I’d like to lift up my own trilogy of social media maxims gleaned from the viral nature of these literary success stories.
1. Tap into the popular mindset
While it’s easy to grasp the timeliness of Lawrence’s post-WWI celebration of female sexuality, it’s perhaps less obvious that modern-day soccer moms were feeling repressed in their SUVs, bored with the “vanilla sex” of suburbia. Nevertheless, James’ sado-masochistic fantasy struck a chord and caused a group Greygasm. Social media is about finding an audience and arousing its passions.
2. Take a leap of faith
Neither D.H. Lawrence nor E.L. James let societal constraints or logistics get in the way of a great story. Both authors self-published their controversial books overseas, not knowing what the response would be. James was a first-time author. She literally bungee-jumped off the creative cliff. Social media means taking risks to speak your truth. You have to have a point of view and the confidence to express it. Take a leap of faith … even if you scream all the way down.
3. Let your fans carry the torch
Believe in the power of your message, and let that belief become a social contagion. Just as readers of Lady Chatterly’s Lover and Fifty Shades of Grey told their friends about the books, and their friends told their friends, social media is like dropping a pebble in a pond and watching the ripples emanate out from the splash. Dan Brown described it as a “web of interconnected minds,” and this interconnectivity ignites the power of shared content. Allowing others to spread the word in their own words gives your message inherent third-party credibility.
Digital word-of-mouth is a powerful force. Don’t try to control the online stream of consciousness. Just dive into the conversation and go with the flow. That’s something Fifty Shades anti-hero Christian Grey would never do.
Laura Bower is vice president and director of public relations & social media for The Tombras Group, a full-service, digital-centric advertising agency, headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn. with offices in Nashville, Tri-Cities, Charleston, S.C. and Washington, DC. Bower holds a bachelor’s degree in English and an MBA in finance from the University of Tennessee, where she has taught advertising as an adjunct instructor. She earned and maintains her Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) from the Public Relations Society of America.
Note: Photo courtesy of Dale Money, The Tombras Group
Last week, while I was in LA for BlogWorld, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend Iris, Cirque du Soleil’s show at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood (disclosure: Cirque du Soleil provided me with two free tickets to this event).
I’ve been to five previous Cirque shows (two in Vegas at previous BlogWorlds and three in the Twin Cities with the traveling shows), and each show follows a similar progression. Group presentation to start the show, followed by individual acts that are broken up by comedic performances culminating with a “finale”-type performance at the tail-end.
And, this one was no different in that way. But, it did incorporate the theme of film, which gave things a different twist. Silhouettes of the performers. Performers carrying cameras (and the film showing up on a 50-foot screen on stage). And hints at famous movies and scenes in the themes and costumes they designed.
As usual, it was an incredible experience. But, as I reflected back on the show the next day at BlogWorld, I couldn’t help but think of a few PR lessons I took away from the show as well:
Consider your customer’s perspective
Two of the coolest moments of the show where when performers actually swung out OVER the audience on trapeze-type contraptions. They you were literally looking straight up, OVERHEAD at these performers. It was incredible. And, it was all about a different perspective (which they had carefully considered when designing the show). Do you have a good feel for your customer’s perspective? Have you spent time in their shoes experiencing your brand from the outside in? That perspective can help you engineer products, services and processes that can enhance your customers’ experience–which can help propel profits and drive loyalty.
Make your customers part of the show
During the second half of the show, the Cirque performers pulled one guest on stage for a somewhat extended routine in which they asked him to act out a number of “scenes” mimicing the Academy Awards. The guy was a pretty good sport. And, the audience loved it. And, more importantly, I’m guessing it’s an experience this gentleman won’t soon forget. What are you doing to draw your customers into your brand? Are you letting “inside the ropes?” I’m thinking specifically about opportunities with influencers and bloggers here.
Don’t forget about artistic design
The design of most Cirque shows is pretty amazing. This particular show has a “firm Noir”-type feel. Costume and set design is a HUGE part of what makes Cirque, Cirque. It completes the experience. Are you considering the artistic design of your brand? I’m not just talking about your actual logo, your marketing materials or your signage. I’m talking about the artistry of your brand. I’m talking about the finer touches. The merchandise your front-line staff wears at events and trade shows. The buttons and link colors on your blog or Web site. Your avatar on social platforms. All that brand artistry adds up to shape your customers’ complete experiences.
Sweat the details
Cirque is famous for sweating the details. I’m always amazed at the level of sophistication in the design. In the costumes. And, in the experience. During intermission, performers roam the aisle and engage the guests. Even the band members in the suites above were carefully dressed, even though they were 50 feet about our heads. It’s an obvious point, but paying attention to the details for your brand can make the difference between a return customer and one that’s willing to walk away.
Have you seen the Cirque du Soleil shows? If yes, any PR lessons you took away?
Last week, I was in New York City for BlogWorld (disclosure: I co-organize the Social Media Business Summit track at BlogWorld). It was my first time in New York City, so for me, this particular trip was as much about the landscape and environment as it was about the content and the conference.
That said, I sat in a number of outstanding sessions at BlogWorld. And, while I took away at least one nugget from each session I participated in, there were a handful that were extremely useful and relevant for my world.
Below are 8 key takeaways from four outstanding sessions at last week’s BlogWorld:
Develop personas for you blog
Lee Odden gave a great presentation on the intersection between search and social. But, he also talked about some blogging best practices. Among them: Developing personas for your blog. Think about who you’re trying to reach—and create a complete description of this person. Is it a middle-aged housewife who’s tech-savvy? Is it a teen who spends upwards of 40 hours a week on his smart phone? Whatever the case, take the time to develop these personas (there may be more than one for your blog). By identifying these ideal readers, it will help you identify keywords (and what keywords THEY are searching for relevant to your brand) and encourage more relevant content.
Go beyond the basics when optimizing blog content
Sure, you want to think about optimizing your posts with keywords, titles, and tags, but quite often we forget about a number of other critical ways we can optimize our blog content. Remember to include alternate text for images you use in your posts. Use list posts regularly (with links). And this was the biggest ah-ha for me: Don’t forget about “social signals.” That is, star ratings, retweets and “Likes.” All these signals impact your larger SEO.
Create your own Facebook tab—in under five minutes
Two of the more interesting people I met all week were from the same company: WebTrends. One of those fellas was Justin Kistner, who led a session around iFrames and best practices for using the tool to develop useful Facebook tabs. The big takeaway? With iFrames, creating a tab is now a reality for everyone. In under 5 minutes. Just follow these steps:
* Visit www.facebook.com/developers—set up a new app
* Name the app
* Enter the tab name
* Enter the tab URL (the URL you will “point to”)
* Set the tab for the page
* Browse for WordPress themes (make sure it’s 525 pixels wide)
The key to Facebook success: Ask questions
Justin also shared some interesting Facebook statistics. Notably around the items that are the most clicked on by users. Content that focused on emotional stories or provocative, passionate debates were 2-3 times more likely to be clicked than other content. And simple, easy questions were 1.5-2 times more likely to be clicked than other content. While those passionate debates might be tough for brands to get involved with, organizations can sure share emotional stories and ask simple questions regularly. And, since those stories can take a while to find and develop, it’s the simple questions that can and should be posted most regularly. Think about what you could ask your fans. And remember, it doesn’t have to tie directly to your product or service. Think about what your fans care about. What interests them. And build questions around those interests.
Target your existing fans—not potential fans—when advertising on Facebook
Justin shared some interesting findings when it came to Facebook Advertising, too. Most fascinating was that ads to non-fans had an average click-thru rate of just .05% (half industry standard of a banner ad, mind you). Meanwhile, ads targeted at existing fans had an average click-thru rate of 35%. Quite a gap, right? So, I see two interesting points here for Facebook advertisers. 1) Consider using your existing fans as a way to get to potential new fans—in other words, target friends of fans when advertising. 2) Think about Facebook ads as an email list. Facebook ads can be a great way to get your messages, offers and information in front of your biggest fans on a regular basis. On a platform that they’re using. A lot.
Images are the most important part of your Facebook ad
One interesting slide Justin shared featured 9 different images. He then asked the audience which images we belived to be the most compelling when it came to the Facebook ad it was featured on. There were numerous guesses for different pics. Not a single person guessed the image that was the most clicked. Lesson? Test images as much as you do headlines and copy—it is often the most important piece of your ad.
Countering the social media blocking argument
Even though I’ve heard pieces of it before, Shel Holtz gave a great presentation on social media blocking. Surprisingly, a full 54% of companies are still blocking social media. This is an issue I run up against with new clients, so it was helpful to get a few new perspectives on how to counter that claim. Most notably 1) It’s futile—employees don’t need your networks anymore. They have their smart phones and they’re using them to access Facebook any time of day they want. 2) Better decision-making—people’s reliance on the Web-based professional networks has skyrockted the last three years. So, denying these decision makers the ability to access those networks seems counter-productive, right? Why not open them up so staff can ask friends and colleagues for tips, information and best practices? All data they can use to make your business run faster, smoother and more profitably. 3) Employee productivity—sure, we’ve talked about the general concept before, but I’ve never considered the entire scope. Think about staff time working at home and extra hours logged in evenings/weekends. And then ask yourself this: Would productivity really improve by blocking social networks? Or, would employees just find a different way to spend those 30-40 minutes a day they might spend online?
Tips to get your posts seen in the Facebook news feed
Bryan Person moderated a great panel about Facebook news feed optimization. In particular, Chad Wittman from EdgeRank and Dennis Yu from WebTrends had some very interesting tips and information to share. Among the most useful tips: 1) By using third-party platforms like Hootsuite, you decrease your news feed optimization–just a bit, 2) Use Facebook Questions to create discussion, which will ultimately help your question show up in the news feed, and 3) Targeting wall posts by geography can help optimize your content for the news feed–consider testing this for maybe one post a week and see how it works for your brand.
Note: Photo courtesy of the BlogWorld Posterous Blog.