The Antidote to Boring Content? Emojis 🐙🍒🎟️🏳️😝👇

What are you most excited about when the latest iPhone launches? A better camera? Better color? A bigger screen? According to a report by Preply’s, 42% say it’s the release of new emojis that gets them energized.

Emojis date back to the 1990s when they were designed by a Japanese marketing agency with the intention of replacing words with pictures to enhance emotions and messages. With over 25,000 characters worldwide right now, there’s no denying that emojis have become a permanent part of our digital and everyday lives. 

More and more brands are beginning to understand the power that emojis can bring to their marketing activities. Brands are using them to make their content more emotionally appealing, showcase their brand’s personality and boost audience engagement. And they’re doing so across a variety of channels—social media, paid advertising, email campaigns and more. Consider these stats:

  • Emojis within your email subject line can increase your open rate by 3-4%. Source: ReturnPath
  • Users who add ten or more emojis to their captions receive about 40% more interactions than those who do not use emojis. In addition, studies show that the more emojis you use, the higher the number of interactions you will get with your post. Source: Quintly
  • 68% of millennials said they are more comfortable expressing emotions using images such as emojis. Source: Inc
  • Humans are naturally visual people, meaning they can process emojis faster than they can read and understand your sentences. Remember, your brain processes images 60 times faster than text and 3x faster than blinking! Source: International Forum of Visual Practitioners
  • Tweets with emojis in them generated 25% more engagement compared to the tweets with no emojis.

So, what does all this mean for brand marketers today? If you’re not using emojis in your marketing, it’s time to start!

Interestingly, a recent study from Hubspot examined which emojis improved click-through rates. The results were a bit surprising— none of them include a face emoji. The emojis that have a positive effect on your click-through rates seem a little more uncommon and random. Perhaps they stand out more because people don’t see them very often.

Emojis in Action

While the marketers of the past may scoff at the thought of emojis, they can add a ton of personality to an otherwise dull message. Beyond style, emojis add real value to your marketing messages. Brands are increasingly finding that the addition of emojis can soften up an otherwise sales-forward message. In fact, Intercom found that messages sent by a business that contain emojis are four times more likely to get a response from a customer.

At the same time, emojis should be used wisely. It’s not as easy as taking the list above and incorporating them haphazardly into your next campaign to increase engagement. Always consider context and content and remember that some emojis may have double meanings.

For example, using emojis within in your paid advertising campaigns should be purposeful, helping support your message and aligning with your brand voice. But if you’re not using emojis across the marketing mix, maybe start by weaving them into your organic message so that your paid posts feel more authentic voice. Also consider A/B testing your ads to discover how your audience responds to the change before jumping in with both feet.

Whether your brand has begun to incorporate emojis as a part of its tone and brand guidelines or not, there is a lot to understand about these characters. They are way more than characters to text your friends and family. They are now a unique language that can enhance your message and personality when used strategically and evoke a sense of connection between your audience and your brand. So, if you want to promote greater interaction and engagement with your brand followers, make emojis part of your marketing language today. 😍🌎😁🤠👏🐞🥇🧡😘

Do you believe in the power of emojis? Please leave a #comment below.

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Stay Ahead of These Five Emerging Marketing Trends Throughout 2023

In the exciting and fast-paced world of marketing, change is constant. Marketing trends are constantly evolving, and it’s up to brand leaders to stay up to date on the latest developments and adapt their marketing strategies to stand out from the competition. Keeping up with these changes isn’t always easy, but it’s essential in order to remain relevant with your audience and build enduring customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Trends happen for a reason. In many instances, they provide valuable insight into how your brand can best reach and connect with your target audiences. Staying on top and ahead of the trends is the first step. Determining how to best utilize the trends to your benefit can be an important differentiator.

As the second quarter of 2023 begins, these are the five biggest trends you should be tracking and maximizing:

1. Personalization: Customers are increasingly expecting personalized experiences from brands, and this trend is likely to continue throughout 2023. Customer expectations around personalization are also on the rise with 73% of shoppers expecting brands to understand their unique needs and expectations.  (Source: Insider Intelligence). While personalization was once a nice-to-have bonus, it is now essential for standing out within an increasingly competitive digital landscape.

To meet customers’ needs and preferences, brands will need to use data and technology to better understand their customers and tailor their marketing messages and offers accordingly. If you’re able to get this right, you can win a loyal customer who feels deeply connected to your brand.

2. Video marketing:  If video marketing is the future, the future is here! It’s not a major surprise that video is becoming an increasingly popular form of content, and this trend and demand is expected to continue for the remainder of 2023. A recent study shows that as many as 91% of consumers want to see more online video content from brands (Source: Wyzowl). And since 2017, the amount of online video consumed monthly has more than quadrupled.

    Brands will need to create high-quality video content that engages their target audience across a range of platforms, including social media, websites, and more. In my opinion, short and sweet is the way to “win” with video content. In fact, according to Sprout Social’s recent survey, short-form videos are found to be the most engaging. As many as two-thirds of consumers (66%) say they pay the most attention to short-form videos—2.5 times more than long-form videos. This is in line with the increasing number of videos on channels such as TikTok, YouTube and Instagram and video becoming an expected part of the online and social media experience.

    3. Influencer marketing: Influencer marketing has become a popular way for brands to reach new audiences and build brand awareness. Throughout the rest of 2023, I expect to see more brands partnering with influencers to promote their products and services, particularly on social media platforms including shorter form video platforms such as Instagram and TikTok. Creator marketing can help drive brand growth and overall visibility across the entire purchasing funnel and many companies have begun to leverage online as well as offline influencer strategies over the past few years.  

    I believe the rise of micro-influencers will be where brands can stand out and successful leverage influencers as well as social media overall. As consumers are looking for more relevant and relatable content, marketers are turning to nano- or micro-influencer collaborations. These often-unpaid content creators with 1,000 to 100,000 followers have very active and engaged audiences. The benefit in my mind of these “smaller influencers” is that they often have a greater ability to truly connect with their community, which can give them significant influencing power. Consumers in general are likely to trust them for their expertise, product reviews and service recommendations. When brands activate them at scale, nano- and micro-influencers can be a great way to target niche audiences, drive awareness and boost sales.

    4. Sustainability: Customers are increasingly concerned about environmental and social issues, and they expect brands to act on these issues. Sustainable marketing is the promotion of environmentally and socially responsible products, practices, and brand values. If you’ve ever spent a little bit more on something because you knew it was locally sourced or 100% recyclable, you’ve taken part in supporting sustainable marketing.

    Within 2023, we can expect to see more brands promoting their sustainability efforts and highlighting their commitment to social responsibility. There are several ways brands can begin to approach becoming more sustainable including donating profits to sustainable causes, sourcing sustainably materials or packaging, and creating products that aides in sustainable living or more. One of my favorite brands and category sustainable commerce leaders, Patagonia, pledged 15% of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment since 1985. In 2022, that amounted to a total of over $140 million. They have also set a target to become completely carbon neutral by 2025.

    The big picture of embracing sustainable marketing is that you’re able to position your brand as an active figure in an environmental or societal issue. It can humanize your brand messages and create another reason why customers should choose you over your competition.

    5. Voice search optimization: Consumers are beginning to search for more things using their voices. In fact, the number of voice assistants is expected to reach 8 billion units in 2023, up from 3.25 billion in 2019. (Source: Statista)

    I maintain that 2023 is the year of voice search optimization. As more people use voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, brands will need to optimize their content for voice search. This means creating content that is easily discoverable and readable by voice assistants and making sure that the brand website is optimized for voice search. Voice search is not just a component of today’s digital marketing landscape, it’s the future. Search engines are becoming more advanced and voice assistants are getting better at understanding the incoming questions and will provide more accurate results. In turn, that accuracy can encourage more people to take advantage of voice search instead of the more traditional time-consuming search process. 

    By focusing on personalization, video marketing, influencer marketing, sustainability, and voice search optimization, brands can stay ahead of the curve in 2023. What else are you working on this year? Leave a comment below.

    Transforming Networking into Sales is Easier Than You May Think

    When networking is done well it can be the most powerful form of marketing— for you and your business. Yes, it can feel overwhelming at times— no one likes walking into a room full of strangers and having to start a conversation— but it a surefire way to elevate your brand or business. 

    Earlier this year I ran a session on how to turn networking into sales during InEvent’s 20 in 30 Webinar Series: Future of Content & Digital Trends. Within the session we explored how to learn and apply new skills and strategies when networking in events as a means of creating new business opportunities. 

    This got me thinking, how can we continue to build on the idea of turning networking into sales for the remainder of 2022 and as we start to think about 2023? Here are a few key learnings:

    Create a strong online presence

    Remember that the first thing someone will do before hiring or working with you is to check you out online. Potential customers need to know you, like you and trust you ahead of buying from you or doing any business with you. Therefore, the need to network and gain access to a referral network is crucial and having an online presence is a must. Additionally, many businesses refer customers and have strong relationships within their industry so the ability to network, connect and grow your relationships becomes of the utmost importance when you’re working on building your sales pipeline.  

    Carefully craft your content marketing strategy

    Another way to enhance your online presence and bring added value to your network is through content marketing. In a crowded digital environment, providing consistent high-quality, and engaging content impacts audience decision-making more than any other technique. According to Hubspot’s 2022 State of Inbound report, content creation is a top priority for 80% of marketers and on average, accounts for 26% of B2B marketing budgets. First impressions matter and having a digital footprint does as well.   

    Develop visual and snackable short content

    When developing your content marketing strategy, keep in mind that Microsoft research found that the average human attention span is now only 8 seconds (compared to 12 seconds in 2000). People have little patience to read through long form written content and may even be turned off it it’s too long or comprehensive. How do you make a big impact in the first eight seconds? By developing short and snackable content, which is digestible and informative.

    In addition, think about site speed. Research by Nielsen found people do not read content on web pages word for word; instead, they scan the page, picking out individual words and sentences. Some of these tips can go a long way in grabbing and keeping attention:

    ·     Highlight important keywords

    ·     Use bullets to make important points stand out

    ·     Use subheadings to break out key sections

    ·     Focus on one idea per paragraph

    Again, the “snackable” content is what catches our eyes and can help to generate leads. The more an audience views your content, the more likely they are to purchase from you in the future! 

    Develop User Generated Content (UGC) to stand out

    When a brand generates User Generated Content (UGC), it helps consumers feel like they’ve been seen. Who doesn’t love being highlighted by a brand they love? Content creation involves gathering, reviewing, and sharing the most relevant and impactful content with your audience. More than 86% of companies today use user-generated content as part of their marketing strategy. And users who create and share content on social media channels get 28% higher engagement compared to standard company posts. Think about how to incorporate UGC into your content marketing strategy to stand out and cut through the noise to captivate your customers’ attention.

    One of my favorite brands, Warby Parker, has become well known for shipping customers frames to try on at home before purchase, a service the company continues to promote via an ongoing UGC campaign. The brand has launched series of high successful social ads using different formats of UGC content including video testimonials, camera photos from customers trying on at home, and motion GIFs. This has allowed Warby Parker to highlight both its stylish frames and its convenient home try-on option in a genuine way. 

    Lean into video

    Content has a reputation for being “king,” but I believe that video is now taking over the crown. According to a Cisco study, by the end of 2022 82% of all online content will be video content. Video content is one of the most engaging forms of content and in my opinion will soon dominate social media and emerge the clear winner over all other types of content. Whether it is short-form videos like those popular on TikTok or Instagram Stories or long-form content viewed on YouTube, videos are the future of social media content.

    Video can also help increase conversions and sales. In fact, according to Insivia, adding a product video on your landing page can increase conversions by 80%. Video can also lead directly to sales. A wyzowl study show that 74% of users who watched an explainer-video about a product or service subsequently bought it. So, if you’re looking for a new way to increase sales, think about a fun and dynamic way to showcase your brand and product through video!

    Embrace the metaverse

    Many experts look at the metaverse as a 3D model of the Internet. Basically, a place parallel to the physical world, where you spend your digital life. A place where you and other people have an avatar, and you interact with them through their avatars. I would argue that the metaverse in the truest sense of the term doesn’t exist yet, but marketing professionals are working through how to adapt this online space and build it into 2023 plans.

    During the pandemic it looked as though livestreaming and hybrid streaming would become the norm, but the metaverse offers several upgrades to that model. I think the metaverse will be the next frontier for advertising and e-commerce and brands are quickly figuring out how to incorporate it. The question is not if, but when people will adopt it. In my opinion, companies should invest in creating virtual experiences for their customers and audiences within the metaverse today, so that they can be first to market when the technology is more widely adopted. The metaverse is “always on” and will continue to evolve but it allows us to develop virtual identities, presence, re-invent peer-to-peer interactions and more.

    Today, the cost to develop advertising and e-commerce technology for the metaverse is a barrier to entry for most businesses. As time goes on there will be platforms that are much easier to utilize by average merchants. For now, it’s a good idea to map out how you might link physical objects in the real world to virtual objects and experiences in the metaverse and put this on the road map for building your sales and marketing funnel.

    Remember, your digital footprint matters!

    There are plenty of tools and tricks to leverage social media, marketing, video and more to help build your network to drive sales. The bottom line is that your digital footprint matters. The first impressions you make through your online presence- whether it be through your written or video content, UGC, or the metaverse— can make a significant difference in your ability to turn networking into sales. As you think about your 2023 planning, what else would you add? Leave a comment below.

    The Future of Content Marketing Appears Bright Moving Into 2022

    The pandemic put content center stage, reminding many marketers that they must develop content that includes purpose, context, creativity, and integrity. To do so, content must add value and enhance the conversation with brands’ target audiences to facilitate engagement. It’s clear that people are looking for ways to be inspired and entertained, making it even more important for content marketers to find creative ways to connect with their audiences. 

    Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs released their 12th annual B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends Report last month which portrays an encouraging and optimistic future ahead for content marketing. The research within the report confirmed what many of us already knew: content marketers are some of the fiercest business pros around. In the most difficult of times, they get the job done– and many come through more creative and stronger than before.

    I wanted to break down some of the key themes highlighted in this report.

    Video and Events Present Prime Opportunities for Engagement

    Ninety percent of content marketers say that short articles and posts (such as blogs) have been within the mix this past year. That is followed by videos (66%), virtual events/webinars/online courses (64%) and case studies (61%). But which tactics produce the best results? Virtual events, webinars, and online courses were named by 58% of respondents as a top performer (including 66% of those categorized as “most successful”) and research reports and short articles/posts were tied for second at 48%.

    B2B marketers remain at a critical inflection point as we prepare for the future of events. The pandemic rapidly accelerated the digitization of events, profoundly changing the live events industry as we knew it. I maintain that most events and conferences will remain virtual until the end of 2022, but agree that the opportunity for virtual events, webinars and online courses showcases the importance of virtual and hybrid events as a MUST next year.

    Given the results of the survey it’s no surprise that the top two planned areas of investment for next year are video and events. It’s clear that content marketers are looking for ways to more immersive engagement with their audience within a fundamentally altered environment. The good news for content marketers is that there are several opportunities to keep virtual events as an integral part of fostering connection and engagement. 

    Earlier this year I wrote an article for InEvent about the 6 Mistakes to Avoid When Planning Your Virtual Event which discussed the importance of developing great content. When you begin planning your virtual event, it’s important to remember that content is often viewed hand in hand within the overall program. That is why it’s so important to take the time to put together a cohesive look and feel and ensure you’ve outlined branding for your online event. Make sure that the content you develop promotes your speakers, sponsors, and every aspect of your program. Eye-catching and captivating promotional materials are key.

    LinkedIn Remains King for Organic and Paid Social Media  

    It’s no surprise that LinkedIn is the top social media platform to distribute both organic and paid B2B content. It’s a viable content marketing platforms and when content is relevant for the proper audience and complimentary to the features of LinkedIn it can really pay off in the end. 

    B2B content marketers in this survey rated it as the most effective for both organic and paid social media. When it comes to producing results with paid social media, LinkedIn was ahead of the next-highest rated platform by 25 percentage points. For organic results, the chasm is even wider.

    Overall, more than three-quarters of practitioners said their paid distribution spending has either increased or remained steady. Social media advertising and promoted posts were the most common paid distribution tactic (77%), beating out search engine marketing and pay-per-click (65%).

    Content Marketing Budgets Are Rising

    Although the pandemic brought a lot of businesses uncertainty, many haven’t pulled back their content marketing investments, which was at one point considered “discretionary” spending. Forty-three percent of respondents familiar with their organization’s spending said their content marketing budget increased in 2021 compared to 2020. Meanwhile, 66% say they expect their content marketing budget to grow in 2022. Very few saw decreases in budget this year or expect them next year.

    The Top Marketing Challenge Ahead

    Creating content which appeals to multi-level roles within the target audience and accessing subject matter experts to create content are still a major challenge. It may be because more marketers are leveraging content collaboration tools, or because so many people have been changing jobs over the last 18 months. 

    This challenge can be compounded if content marketers only focus on creating content that appeals to those in the C-suite, as research from Netline Corporation shows that the vast majority of content consumption happens within roles outside the C-suite. Marketers must find relevant subject matter experts in 2022 to develop relatable content appealing to numerous roles within their target audience. 

    I discussed the future of content generation on my blog and just like any other content marketing strategy, repackaging content is all about consistency. I recommend brands create 2-3 additional content assets whenever they publish a new article, such as developing a piece of audio content, adding a voice over, or turning a presentation into a video. Through videos, user generated content, and a variety of content types they can begin to home in on what content resonates most.

    Despite the challenges of the recent past, it’s an exciting time to be a content marketer. With new approaches and channels to develop content and engage with audiences, refreshed budgets and agreement that content is king, it’s clear that there is a world of opportunity for B2B content marketers in 2022. 

    The Future of Content Generation

    If someone offered you a crystal ball that could tell you the future of content generation, would you want it?  As a member of The Upside, an award-winning community and accelerator for thriving consultants, I participated in a recent Clubhouse event discussing the future of content generation.  This got me thinking about trends for the remainder of this year and beyond.

    Following an amazing discussion with Erin Halper, CEO of The Upside, and my colleagues Rebecca Orlov, Rachel Dorton, and Lisa Weiss, I asked my LinkedIn network to provide some tips and content marketing trends they were most excited about as we enter the second half of 2021.

    As you begin planning your content marketing strategy for the remainder of this year, I encourage you to keep the below trends and tips in mind.  Overall, developing high-quality content that doesn’t necessarily require more resources was a major focus among the panelists. This can go a long way toward crushing key marketing objectives in 2021.

    The Emergence of Audio Platforms

    Back in April I wrote an article for Search Engine Watch on whether Clubhouse was really worth the hype.  Within the post I explored how brands can use Clubhouse to build an online community to further add value and drive engagement.  My key takeaway was that although it came onto the market at the right time, I’m cautious about its role over the long term.  As Twitter, LinkedIn, and other audio apps emerge Clubhouse will have to quickly adapt and make some changes if it wants to become a mainstream platform for brand marketers.

    Although I remain interested and active on the platform, I’m cautious that it’s the “popular kids” hangout and the allure and interest is largely based around buzz.  Certainly, brands can and should listen into ongoing conversations and get ideas about the topics target audiences and tuning into and discussing.  The brands that listen openly to new ideas and have a pulse on the culture and content their market is exposed to will have a long-standing advantage and edge.

    Margaret Molloy, the Global Chief Marketing Officer at Siegel+Gale added, “I expect to see more audio content from an evolution of live audio platforms including Twitter Spaces or Clubhouse as well as the expansion of podcasts.  The mobility and portability are so attractive as people recommence commuting or continue to do more exercise or even simply walking their dogs!”

    Danielle Guzman, the Global Head of Social Media at Mercer added, “The rise of social audio will drive growth in a conversation-first approach to content.  Start with a conversation (aka social audio platforms) and use that conversation as fuel for your content plan, putting the experts (influencers, SMEs, employee advocates) at the center of your content strategy), and then when you activate on channels, those voices are amplified in content different formats.”

    I agree with Danielle and Margaret that audio platforms offer a much-needed relief for the Zoom fatigue many of us experienced this year.  Although they are mobile friendly, they’re merely a part of a set of tools we must have within our pocket.  When used properly and effectively audio can be used to help achieve success for your brand.  The future of audio platforms seems bright, and it will be interesting to see how it all unfolds over time.

    Explosion of Video Content

    With major events out of play the for bulk of 2021, video and webinar content became even more important—and guess what, it’s not going away.  Consumers want to get information and learn quickly and there’s no better way to do that without video marketing.  Video is a quick and effective medium to communicate your message and educate your audience. Video content is on a seemingly never-ending rise around the world.

    Cisco’s Annual Internet Report reported that video content is predicted to amount to a whopping 82% of all internet traffic.  Additionally, according to a HubSpot survey, over 54% of consumers would like to see more content from their brands.  It’s pretty clear that video is what we need to focus on in 2021!  

    This isn’t to say you should ignore all other forms of content, but it does mean that video must be at the forefront of your strategy.  Sarah-Jane Manco, a marketing and communications senior professional within the financial services industry, added, “I see short form video sticking around for a lot longer.  Our attention spans are shortening thanks to social media, so condensing your message into a 15-30 second video is the way forward!”  

    I couldn’t agree more and encourage brands and marketers to continue to develop short content to cut through the digital noise and amplify your story.  It’s important to use a variety of video formats to fit your brand, industry, and niche, and optimize them for every step of the customer’s journey.

    The More Personal, the BETTER!

    Personalization in 2021 goes beyond merely addressing your customer by their name in emails or when you’re talking to them via chat. In the years to come, technologies like artificial intelligence will make data analysis more efficient and effective, allowing you to achieve hyper-personalized communication.

    Providing a stellar customer experience is no longer a “nice to have;” it’s now a true necessity. Customers expect and demand seamless and personalized experiences throughout their journey with your brand.  User-generated content (UGC) is a highly effective way of creating more connected relationships with customers, especially when leveraged across social media channels.    UGC provides an additional stream of content that is typically engaging, authentic and reflective of the overall brand promise.

    Building Content Communities

    Creators are now in the driver’s seat and users are in for the ride alongside them.  With the rise of Clubhouse offering authenticity through voice or Slack communities across tech, building communities has been a push for marketing teams for the remainder of the year.

    However, building communities specifically around content sharing and creation will allow marketing teams to continue to expand their reach, even with fewer resources.

    Expanding your reach is great for brand awareness—and, of course, your metrics—but that kind of inclusion is also good for fostering a sense of community with your audience, too.

    Repackaging Content

    One of the major threads within my LinkedIn post was the use of repurposing content. Repackaging content is nothing new, but the idea is to turn existing content into new formats.  Tom Pick, a B2B Tech Digital Marketing Consultant, added that he thinks “we’ll see more’ video first’ content creation.  Meaning, creators will start by recording an online video with an expert, maybe live, maybe not.  The audio will be repurposed as a podcast, and the transcript as a blog post (or more than one).  Then excerpts will be pulled from a string of these to create an expert roundup post.  It’s the next stage of repurposing.”

    This idea of the future state of repurposed and repackaged content will allow for us to turn existing how-to articles into visual flowcharts or revise an article into a podcast or even a mini audiobook.  The main aspect of content repackaging is that a new content piece creates value of its own.  It’s not just about re-marketing your old content simply for additional clicks or conversions.  Content repackaging is the marketing tactic that aims to give your audience a new way to consume information.  It also involves expanding your own content with new research and up-to-date information.

    April Rudin the Founder and CEO of the Rudin Group added, “Personalization and the opportunity to repurpose existing content is HUGE particularly for regulated industries like financial services and pharmaceutical, I’m a fan of infographics and data visuals to help tell stories in a snapshot. To me, video should be used sparingly and in short spurts, no one wants to watch lengthy videos or listen to long podcasts without visuals.

    Meredith Bodgas, the Editorial Strategy Lead at Toptal, added, “Consider repackaging of existing content to match the different platforms on which you might not be using that content.”  What I love about Meredith’s advice is that it allows us to create new and unique content for a variety of social media channels. It lets us experiment with many content formats and identify our best-working engagement tactics. 

    Like any other content marketing strategy, repackaging content is all about consistency.  I recommend brands create 2-3 additional content assets whenever they publish a new article.  Consider using some of the advice within this article, such as developing a piece of audio content, adding a voice over or turning a presentation into a video. 

    A good rule of thumb according to Singlegrain is that we should be spending 20% of our time on content creation and 80% on content promotion.  They offer some great tips within the article about the basics of promotion and the foundation of developing GOOD content.  Remember, content is king, and will continue to be for many years to come.

    What else would you add to what’s in store for the future of content generation?  Leave a comment below or send me a tweet @marissapick


    Social Media Tips for Small Businesses to Ensure Success In 2021.

    Social media has become an integral part of everyday life. In fact, many people spend a large part of their day exploring various social media channels. A study from Globalwebinex showed, on average, people spend three hours a day on social networks and messaging.  Given the prevalence of social media, it’s no surprise that marketers and businesses flock to these channels hoping to connect with their target customers.

    As social media is becoming more integrated into our lives it provides countless opportunities for businesses looking to reach their audience through various initiatives. That being said, it can be challenging for small businesses to stand out given the massive content overload on social media channels.  Small businesses don’t have the budgets to compete with big brands, who are pumping millions of dollars into paid advertising to promote their products and campaigns. For small businesses to succeed, it’s important to bring social media back to the foundation of what it aims to do, engage.   Having a clear and engaging social media marketing strategy can help small businesses succeed into 2021 and beyond.

    I spoke with Clay McDaniel, CEO of  Ripl Inc. regarding social media for small businesses to succeed.   Since many small businesses often can’t afford a social media manager, or don’t have team members with knowledge of how to develop social media content they often look to implement a third-party tool to support their content management needs.  I’ve worked with my fair share of social media tools throughout my career and have been impressed with Ripl Inc.

    Clay explained that “With Ripl, anybody can easily manage the social media presence of their business. For about the same price as a lunchtime sandwich per month, you can have thousands of customizable templates available to your company with over 500,000 high-quality images and 90,000 videos at your disposal. You can quickly create trackable professional-grade content and schedule to share it across channels in minutes instead of hours.”

    Clay shared several key pieces of advice for small business owners to consider for social media success this January.

    1. Consider focusing on a “hero” social platform. If you feel like you’re spread too thin tying to manage all of your social channels, see if one is performing much better than the others and focus your energies there. Some channels don’t make as much sense for certain types of businesses. Visual platforms like Instagram often benefit retailers, while Twitter can be beneficial for sharing news and managing customer service.
    2. Understand Your Customer – Small businesses often can’t afford to do mass marketing, so you need to make sure your social media activity is pinpointed to your customers’ needs. Spend the time to really personify your customer and what will speak to them and that will help as you develop new content throughout the month and year.
    3. Set goals for your social pages – Having a page just to have a page isn’t the best strategy, so set some measurable goals so you know what’s working and not. Perhaps that means brainstorming new types of content, posting more often or at more regular intervals, or doing more community management on your social media channels.
    4. Add a call-to-action button– This button sits just under your cover photo on your Facebook business page and can be added to Instagram, as well. Make sure it fits your business so potential customers can engage immediately to “Shop now,” “Book now,” “Sign up” and more.
    5. Delete or archive old content – Comb through your past Instagram posts and Twitter tweets and decide if any are outdated or no longer applicable to your business. Go through each of your story highlights at the top of your Instagram feed and remove outdated content…and if you’re not yet using Instagram stories for your business, you should start. This is a great way to keep important content indefinitely since highlights last forever while stories only last 24 hours on the platform. Be sure to also go through your past tweets to determine if there are any that might spark controversy or seem tone deaf and delete those, as well. 

    COVID-19 has been a game changer for small businesses both within the United States and across the world.  Facing financial constraints and major limitations imposed by the pandemic has resulted in the need for many small businesses to pivot and come up with innovative solutions to reach their customers in order to survive (and hopefully thrive!).

    The advice Clay shares above is crucial for small businesses to succeed on social media channels.   Small businesses have one major advantage over big corporations in my opinion, they can be nimble and seize opportunity.  The ability for a small business to lean in and adapt social media channels in order to evolve in a rapidly changing world is key.

    What additional social media tips would you give for small businesses to ensure their success into 2021?

    Please take a moment and leave a comment below!

    The Future of The Micro vs. Mega Influencer – Why User Generated Content is Poised to Win for Businesses

    Guest Post from Matt Gibbs, Co-founder and CMO of UPshow

    Millennials and GenZ might be the curated selfie generation, but a shift is happening, and businesses are taking notice. The cultural pendulum is swaying away from brand-sponsored mega-influencer-celebrity-endorsed posts to organic content that’s generated by people you know, or even those you feel like you know. Capturing more natural moments and promoting them within a more intimate circle of followers versus big ‘on the main stage’ posts is what’s now in-vogue. An industry 2018 Trust Barometer Report revealed that 60 percent of people no longer trusted social media and reported that immediate friends and family are better for recommendations than influencers.

    That said, Kylie Jenner-esque paid posts aren’t going away, but they have become tarnished, and millennials and their younger counterparts are gravitating towards more natural interactions from those within their inner circle or for relatable micro-influencers. As a result, more brands are gravitating toward user-generated content to increase engagement and build trust and community.

    According to a study, 56 percent of consumers are more likely to buy a product that they’ve seen in real-life images posted by another consumer – a shift away from the rainbow-colored preplanned photos that dominated platforms like Instagram in late 2017.

    UPshow, the company I co-founded, is a social TV platform that companies such as Crunch Fitness, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen and ATI Physical Therapy are using to transform their customers into immediate influencers.  The platform entices customers to post on social media by projecting them on big screens in-venue. As a result, friends and family, also see and are often influenced by the posts. The content and choice to participate is totally in the hands of the consumer.

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    Other companies also provide services that cater to this trend, such as Guest Crew and Woobox.  Their platforms harness user-generated content and boost it organically. Guest Crew leverages a community of organically generated influencers and Woobox turns user-generated content into contests.  Filtergrade uses professional photo grade filters (such as Adobe Lightroom presets) to help brands generate more professional quality shareable images that are unique and micro-influencers can use them too to make their posts mimic celebrity influencer quality.

    It’s a new era for user-generated content and if brands want to appeal to younger audiences, such as millennials and GenZ, they need to embrace the social media trends that will improve their engagement rates by putting the power in the hands of the consumer in a genuine way.  

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    Matt Gibbs is co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of UPshow, a consumer engagement platform that transforms a business’s existing TVs into its top marketing assets.  Gibbs is responsible for branding, lead generation and advertising for the

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    company. Gibbs is a genuine entrepreneur and trailblazer in digital media with deep roots in the Chicago start-up community. Along with college friend and UPshow CEOAdam Hirsen, Gibbs co-founded SparkReel in 2011. SparkReel created a more efficient way for friends and family to share mobile videos online and evolved into a social media agency that created user-generated content campaigns for Verizon, Oreo, Condé Nast, Apartments.com, among others. UPshow was born out of SparkReel when customers wanted social media engagement screens at events. Gibbs graduated from Miami University of Ohio and resides in Chicago, IL with his wife, two children and corgi.

    Four Trends Marketers Shouldn’t Ignore

    Are you wondering what you should be keeping an eye out in 2016? Look no further, within this post I share key findings from recently published reports from PulsePoint and PageFair and Adobe highlighting key trends and stats marketers can’t afford to ignore.

    1. Content Marketing is King!

    If you’re vaguely familiar with Content Marketing you’ve heard heard the term “Content Is King.”  A report published by PulsePoint found that by 2017 content marketing budgets are projected to double, and 83% of marketers believe content marketing will go “programatic” by 2017. (Click to Tweet)

    When most of us think about real-time content marketing, we think of examples like Oreo’s tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl blackout, when they advised customers that they “can still dunk in the dark.” That tweet was a great response to an unexpected occasion and the birth of the awareness of real time content marketing.

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    Keep in mind that real-time content does not always have to be spontaneous. The majority of real-time content advertising and marketing can be prepared to some level by maintaining a close eye on preparing and trending topics material that replies to a broad range of scenarios.  Brand who are setup with strong content marketing strategies will rapidly set themselves apart and cut through the noise and “win” within this arena.

    2.  Content marketing and native growth will outpace display and search

    Brands, agencies and publishers reported that content marketing and native are both important to their organizations and strategies. But are the ad dollars and digital inventory available to back them? The answer is yes as both supply and demand are expected to grow over the next two years.

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    While display and search still command most of the ad dollars, 37% of respondents to PulsePoint’s study named content marketing as one of the largest spending buckets.  That gap is only set to narrow, as content marketing and native ads both are both projected to see increased budgets over the next two years. The other format tracking slightly behind is digital video since the formal draws a higher audience engagement which is pivotal for brands with upper funnel campaign objectives.

     

    3. Ad Blocking Is Rapidly Expanding, and Costing Publishers Billions of Dollars.

    The number of consumers using ad blocking software worldwide has increased 41% year-on-year to 198 million monthly active users according to a report by PageFair and Adobe. (Click to Tweet)

    Ad blocking is increasingly a challenge to marketers and it’s estimated that the click-through rate across all ad formats and placements is only 0.06 per cent.  Now users are able to be more discretionary than ever about which content they want and what they don’t.

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    Currently ad blocking almost always happens via desktop computers, however ad blocking on mobile could soon become a mainstream phenomenon.

    The rate of ad blocking varies country by country. The US has an estimated 45 million monthly active ad block users, up 48% year-on-year which across  Europe, 35% of the internet population (77 million users) used an ad blocker at least once a month.  The report also found that ad block users are usually young and technically savvy and predominantly male.

    4. Mobile Emailing Marketing Remains in The Mix

    Email is a channel which can’t be ignored however with the rise of wearable technology and mobile marketers must work towards firming up their email marketing strategy.

    A study from Moveable Ink found that in the first quarter of 2015, 67% of all U.S. email opens occurred on a mobile device  and 75% of those were smartphones. (Click to Tweet)

    The growth in mobile is staggering and the shift is undeniable as tablets and wearables are now being dubbed the “new inbox.” Marketers must ensure their messaging is “mobile friendly,” personalized, and optimized for success.

    What trends do you think Marketers should watch into 2016, leave a comment below or send me a tweet.