I’m giving friend and fellow solo counselor, Dan Farkas, the floor today. I’ve had the good fortune to meet Dan twice in person–both times at the Solo PR Summit the last two years. Dan and I share a love for sports (although he’s typically on the wrong side of the discussion 🙂 and teaching (Dan teaches at Ohio University). And despite his love for pro wrestling, I thought I’d let him share his perspective today. Take a peek.
Yes. Wrestling isn’t real. I get it.
So as World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) hones in on the biggest wrestling event of its calendar, there is a movement that should make everyone think about how they communicate. And yes, the man at the center of this is this guy.
Even though professional wrestling has fake/predetermined outcomes, Bryan’s story has real world implications that should change how your brand does business.
Make It Simple
Bryan’s gimmick revolves around one word. That’s it. Listen to the crowd react. This isn’t Shakespeare, though the crowd reaction might be louder.
Keep in mind, the bad guy hasn’t show up yet.
Yes, there is beauty within strategic communication to develop creatively brilliant messaging aligned on multiple platforms with staggered start times. But in this attempt to outdo other agencies, seek awards and maybe get a big blog mention, sometimes we forget about the power of simplicity. Yes, too often, we miss the point.
- In 2014, one-step conversion matters.
- In 2014, we still like good guys outsmarting the bad guys.
- In 2014, simple messaging is the best messaging. Just ask Michigan State.
Your Audience Knows More About Your Brand Than You Think
Mike Whaling made this point years ago to me. If you’re not sure what customers want, ask them. When they tell you, listen.
Daniel Bryan lost the big wrestling title to another guy. This is video of the belt presentation to the other guy. Yes, you should know what happens by now.
Bryan isn’t as tall, strong, tan or photogenic as many of the people in that ring. He doesn’t look like The Rock or talk like Hulk Hogan. It doesn’t matter. The customers spoke. Yes, it was loud. That’s what customers do. Will your brand hear what is said or truly listen?
Ride The Wave
Because of this controlled chaos, Bryan will be in the main event of the WWE’s biggest annual show, WrestleMania. Nobody knows how long this craze will last. Maybe it’s wrestling’s next Gangnam Style. Maybe it’s wrestling’s next U2. USA Today seems to think there’s some run with this “Yes” thing.
Today, people care. A lot. Yes, it might make zero sense to some rational humans. Brands spend years trying to catch a “viral” wave. When it arrives, ride it for as long as possible.
Yes, we won’t confuse Daniel Bryan with Daniel Edelman anytime soon. But do I think one word in a weird world should influence your universe today? I’ll let these folks answer for me.
Dan Farkas is an Instructor of Strategic Communication at Ohio University who also owns Dan Farkas Interactive and tries to corral two children under four. Yes, he likes coffee. Yes, you can reach him @danfarkas on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.
We’re just three months into the New Year, but in case you haven’t noticed Facebook has made a TON of enhancements and added a number of features to its existing platforms and services.
It’s a full-time job keeping up with Facebook, really. If you don’t subscribe to either AllFacebook or Inside Facebook, I’d recommend doing that right about now (using your newly set up Feedly account, of course).
But, if you need the Cliff’s Notes version of what’s happened the first three months of the year, take a peek at the changes below, and what they mean for brands/clients like yours:
In what might be the most under-the-radar news so far, Facebook unveiled “unpublished posts” for brands just last week. What does that mean? Brands now have the opportunity to advertise to certain segments of fans without publishing the post to their wall/newsfeed. Translation: Brands won’t have to inundate fans to get the targeting they want. Instead, with unpublished posts, they can run many variations of the same campaign at different segments without clogging up their newsfeed.
Big addition for community managers as replies gives you the ability to respond to individual comments instead of responding to multiple people in one comment and tagging folks. Should ease some pain for community managers from big brands to small businesses.
Thanks to recent changes, brands can now use purchase information, contact information and calls to action in their Facebook cover images–something they could NOT do before (but most brands WANTED to do). Keep in mind, you still cannot violate Facebook’s 20 percent rule–no more than 20 percent of the image may contain text. So, don’t go overboard.
Facebook recently made a few layout/flow changes to its Power Editor that make navigating the tool a bit easier (you know what I’m talking about if you’ve used it). The new flow directs you through the process by starting with the type of ad you want to use (sponsored story, marketplace ad, video ad, etc.) vs. what you wanted to promote. Small change, but seems like it may make Power Editor a bit more user-friendly.
Great new feature for businesses who advertise on Facebook (which should be a growing number by now). You will soon be able to market to what Facebook is calling “lookalike” audiences–those audiences with similar characteristics to your existing customers. The only drawback? It seems to be only available on Facebook’s Power Editor–which still not very many brands and businesses seem to use.
Most folks saw this proposed change–probably the biggest of the first quarter. Facebook’s promise to roll out a new newsfeed later this year. It’ll focus much more on photos–and give users the opportunity to filter the newsfeed in the way they want to see if (most recent posts, friends, photos, pages, etc.). Biggest impact to brands–time to make sure your photo capturing capabilities are finely tuned. Those pics are about to get that much more important.
Last week, the PRSA Puget Sound Chapter asked me to lead a small group discussion around social content strategies that make sense. That got me thinking–which brands are really doing a great job with social content? Which ones really get it–but aren’t the Dells, Cokes and Burberry’s of the world that we always hear about.
So, I went to digging. And, came up with a few interesting examples of off-the-radar brands doing some pretty interesting stuff when it comes to social content.
Take a peek at the following 8 examples of companies you might not think of when it comes to creating and curating compelling social content:
What I like most about what Moosejaw does on Facebook–it doesn’t take itself too seriously. And why should it–they’re a mountaineering brand. In fact, one recent post that garnered a ton of likes and comments was a photo of a watermelon on a deli slicer. What does that have to do with mountaineering? Not much. But, it shows personality, and it clearly resonated with their fans–which meant it got in more news feeds. I also love that Moosejaw recently used a customer photo as the brand’s Timeline pic for a spell. They recently posted updates on wildfires in Michigan–and what people could do to help. They make personal posts (“Rode to work. Did you?”). And, of course, they make lots of posts that feature their merchandise and products (and why shouldn’t they? But, it’s important to note they don’t dominate the page–they’re main goal seems to be on engagement).
Mint.com may be one of the best corporate blogs you’ve never heard about. The brand does a fantastic job of showcasing content they know will be relevant to their customers (categories include Saving, Housing, Investing and Family)–but more importantly, much of it is what I would call “non-branded” content. What does that mean? How-to posts (“How marketing tactics can give new grads a competitive edge”), Housing (Time to go Tanklesss?), Saving (Cloth Diapers vs. Disposables), Credit (Is Credit Repair Right for Me?), and Mint Style (Rachel Weingarten: Summer Style on a Budget). And the best part? As far as I can tell, Mint.com uses a cadre of all guest bloggers. Great way to build community–and reach–for the blog.
What’s great about the Patagonia blog, The Cleanest Line, is that they clearly know their audience. Sure, the blog promotes the occasional Patagonia-sponsored event (Surfilm Festibal) and merchandise (although that’s fairly rare). But, more often than not, they’re hitting on the experiences their customers relish and blogging about those. A photo blog post about a fella who traversed across Australia. An interview with Patagonia “Surf Ambassador” (cool job alert), Trevor Gordon. Or, a post detailing how Patagonia’s stores across the country took part in Bike to Work Week.
Chobani’s not the most pinned brand on Pinterest. But they seem to have a firm grasp on how to use the platform to drive engagement–and traffic–for the brand. Just look at their boards. Sure, they have the expected Nutrition, Chobani Kitchen and Holiday Treats boards. But they also feature content that pushes the envelope for the brand–yet reels buyers in. Boards like: Chobaniac Creations (all sorts of ideas), Chobani Champions (lots of pics of kids and kids eating healthy), CHO the Places We’ll Go (travel shots but also shots of the CHOMobile traveling the world); and my favorite, Insta-piration, featuring all sorts of IG pics using hash tags from #chobainpowered to the simple #chobani.
Red Bull (Pinterest)
Yeah, yeah, I know Red Bull isn’t exactly “under the radar.” But, on Pinterest they aren’t exactly a hot commodity either with just 692 followers to date and 11 boards. But, I love how they’re using the tool to extend their brand personality. Some of the better boards include: Holy Shit (people doing crazy stuff, like kayaking out of a plane), Festibull (a variety of photos from their popular event), and Give us Wings to Fly Here (my favorite, made up of destinations to visit with those wings). Overall, a great example of curated content on Pinterest–I’d like to see more celebrity pics here since Red Bull does so much with celebs, but I’m guessing copyright and use laws might be getting in the way.
Boston Celtics (Instagram)
As a Minnesota sports fan, no one is a bigger Beantown hater than me. But, you gotta give it to the Cs social team. They nail it with tools like Instagram when it comes to content. Why? Because they accomplish a few things. 1–They use it as a tool to get fans excited. See the “Let’s Go Celtics!” towel above–which I actually think the entire city of Boston “liked” on Instagram that day. 2–They use IG photos to give fans a behind the scenes look at Celtics life (see pic of KG above in the tunnel before a game–very cool). And 3–They just have fun with it (see pic above of Celtics watering can putting out Miami’s “Heat.” Excellent use of the tool. Excellent use of visual content for a brand that’s not entirely based on photographic content.
Boeing (blogging and video)
When you think content, you probably don’t instantly think of world-class jet manufacturers. But, Boeing’s got a firm grasp on their audience (Boeing geeks, essentially) and what they want to see online. Vice president of marketing, Randy Tinseth, brings that to life in his blog, aptly named “Randy’s blog.” In the blog, he showcases trips around the world to market the new jets (recently visiting Sao Paulo), insider photos from Boeing plants (very geeky) and stats and numbers that only people who REALLY cared about these big jumbo jets would read about. Not surprisingly, the blog garners a number of comments–and for a blog focused on manufacturing jumbo jets, I’d say that’s pretty darn impressive. Again, they know their audience.
But here’s my favorite part. Boeing does incredible things with its video content. I mean, just look at the numbers. 14,000-plus subscribers and a whopping 4 MILLION-plus video views. Much like Randy’s blog, the channel focuses on some pretty geeky jet-based content. Test flights. New technology. Behind the scenes footage. It’s all a part of the channel. One video that inspired a ton of traffic and comments (98 to be exact) is this video which shows the in-depth process of how Boeing tested its Boeing 787. Keep in mind, 102,000-plus people watched this video. 98 commented. And it’s 11-plus minutes long. Impressive yet again.
Another example of a big brand using a tool effectively to reach a key audience with content that resonates. Sounds so simple, but if it was so easy everyone would be doing it. And clearly, that’s just not happening. But, Intel excels here on a platform it knows its customers are using (Google+ is well known for its tech base). But, it’s Intel’s content that really does the trick here (after you self-identify and tell them what “user group” you’re a part of right at the top of the page–brilliant). Of course, most of the content is “branded content.” But, that doesn’t mean it’s not compelling. For example, the SciArt created by youth across the world is pretty darn cool. Or, what about the simple quotes they share in visual format (recent Picasso quote garnered 105 +s and 32 shares). Or, a recent link to an article on the company’s curated IQ site about social TV trends. Sure, they mix in a healthy dose of product promotion, but they also share a decent amount of content that’s just plain interesting to their audience.
Those are my picks. What brands do you see out there that are really understanding social content–and why?
As we put the finishing touches on the Social Media Business Summit track at BlogWorld this year, we really wanted to get a micro-brewery on a small business case study panel. OK, fine, I wanted to get a micro-brewery on the panel.
So, I set out to dig in to some of the micros that were really making headway with social tools. What I found was pretty surprising: There weren’t a lot of success stories out there. My guess? Most micro-breweries don’t have the time or resources necessary to devote to social media. And even those that do (I’m thinking about Surly locally) don’t necessarily use it because they might not want to grow beyond “micro-brew” status (i.e., they don’t NEED social media).
But, I eventually did track down one micro-brewery that I believe is really making headway in the social arena: Stone Brewing. Below is a short interview with Jacob McKean, social media lead for Stone Brewing. Jacob will be speaking as part of a small business panel at BlogWorld May 24-26 in New York City (disclosure: I am the co-track leader for the Social Media Business Summit).
Q: You’ve mentioned that Stone Brewing doesn’t do any advertising. Can you talk a bit about what led you to that strategy and why you continue to spend so much of your time and resources online?
A: That decision was made very early on, long before my time here, but basically the feeling was/is that advertising is something best left to the mega-brewers. In 1996, our co-founders asked themselves, “Have we ever seen an ad for good beer?,” and their answer was a definitive no. Other than the word ‘beer’, we have virtually nothing in common with the mega-brewers, so why imitate their strategy? At this point, if we were to start advertising, it would be like slapping a giant neon sign on the hippest speakeasy in town; it wouldn’t make any sense.
More recently, with the digital communication platforms that have become available to us, we’ve been able to speak directly to our fans and cultivate a community of aficionados. That community is excited to engage with us and hear about our news as soon as it becomes available, which is a far more effective way to spend our time than advertising. It’s all “opt-in” and that will always be a more powerful tool than forcing people to look at your ad.
Since you do devote so many resources to your social and online efforts, I’m guessing it’s working. Can you talk a little about the results you’ve seen so far? What’s been effective and what hasn’t (and what you learned as a result)?
A: We’ve had tremendous success with our social media. When I started in January of 2010, we had 18,199 “Likes” and around 12,000 Twitter followers. Today, we have 85,329 “Likes” and 29,036 Twitter followers, and our blog is (often) among the top 10 most read beer blogs on the web. I believe that success is due in large part to having high standards for content. If the material is compelling and it’s compellingly delivered (i.e. funny), it works. Sometimes we have to check ourselves and make sure we’re delivering information that is interesting to our fans and not just us. Because it’s pretty much all interesting to us.
In the alcoholic beverage industry, you run into many of the same challenges that regulated industries like health care and banking face. Yet, you’ve had good success. What’s been your secret?
A: Yup, beer is the most regulated item in the country. There are highly specific regulations regarding what we can say, what pictures we can use, what our labels can look like, and of course, how we can sell our beer, among a million other things. And all of those issues are regulated at the state and federal levels, so it’s like there’s 51 versions of those regulations. Obviously, I’m constantly learning new things.
Fortunately, we make incredibly good beer and have a sense of humor about things. And that’s really the key. We have a large, organic fan base that likes to hear us speak in our authentic voice. So I try to deliver that.
To me, social media seems like a perfect fit for resource-strapped craft brewers like Stone. Yet, I still don’t see all that many that really use the tools effectively. Why do you think you’ve been so successful where so many other craft breweries have failed?
A: It’d be pure speculation since I haven’t worked for any other craft breweries, but I’d say most are just starting to figure out how they fit into the social media realm. I’ve seen a few more breweries hire social media people, but it’s still a rare position. Most breweries have extremely limited marketing budgets, so hiring a dedicated social media position may seem daunting (and in reality, mine isn’t even a dedicated social media position.)
Stone has one of the better blogs among craft brewers. You churn out regular content that’s both relevant and compelling for your audience, including topics ranging from cooking (I thought we were talking about beer?) to new beer releases. Being a team of one, how do you efficiently manage your blog and how do you go about identifying topics and angles you believe will resonate with your customers?
A: Well, we have no shortage of topics that interest our fans. The issue is finding time to write the posts, and I haven’t kept the blog as up to date as I’d like. What I’ve started doing is seeing myself more as an editor than a writer, and assigning posts to other people in the company. The reality is that Stone is growing so fast and there are so many new projects on the table at any given time, that it’s incredibly hard to keep up. For the blog, I just try to zero in on the topics that demand long-form attention.
Finally, how are you measuring success with your social media efforts? In other words, how are you drawing the line from what you’re doing with your blog, Twitter and Facebook to how many cases are going out the back door?
A: There’s really no way to know how “Likes” or whatever else translates into sales, at least that I’m aware of. So we measure success by the growth of our followers and the feedback we receive in comments and retweets and such. We believe and hope it helps sales (I wouldn’t have created regionalized Facebook pages for most of our sales reps if we didn’t), and we keep growing at a break neck pace, so something must be working. One exception is events. Like everything else, our website and social media are our primary, and usually exclusive, promotional outlets. And we sell out almost every event, so that’s a pretty clear translation of social media promotion into actual dollars spent. And when we do events farther afield, in places like Chicago, New York, Baltimore, etc…, and we promote them the same way, bars often tell us it’s their number one sales day ever.
Jacob McKean is the Communications Specialist for Stone Brewing Co. Jacob grew up in Los Angeles and studied History & Anthropology at Columbia University in New York. He has worked as a freelance writer in Pittsburgh, an elementary school teacher in New Orleans, a book vendor in New York City, and a bon vivant in Mexico. He is the honey badger of the social media world.