Don’t tell me how to boil my egg

It’s hard to scroll through a Facebook newsfeed these days without being affronted by life lessons. These pearls of wisdom aren’t from your best friend in Vietnam, your Matric biology teacher or your mother – they’re lessons from brands.

The information ranges from the mundane, ‘How not to fall asleep at your desk’, ‘How to fold your clothes to better fit your wardrobe’, or ‘How to boil the perfect egg’ (that one’s surprisingly common) to the utterly absurd: ’10 ways to clean your kitchen with Coca-Cola’.

Real talk
As our newsfeeds become so inundated with these unrequested titbits of – often useless – information, you can’t help but ask: why is an insurance company telling me how to keep my yolk runny? Why is an energy drink telling me how to re-arrange my cupboard? Or more importantly, who asked them in the first place?

When it first slipped onto the scene, content marketing on social media was like the unknown, good-looking foreigner at the party: you’re interested; you’re intrigued and spend time engaging because they seem romantic in their exoticism. Fast forward five years, and the novelty has no doubt worn off. Their eccentricities are no longer exciting.

Calling B-S
At one time, brands could subtly inject your newsfeed with posts about home care, health or gardening and you’d hardly notice. In fact, you might even give it a click or a tap. But we’re now acutely aware of the game they’re playing and the content marketing equivalent of unconscious banner blindness has set in.

To put it more simply: I just don’t believe that an insurance company knows or cares whether I boil my egg perfectly. It’s just disingenuous. Generation Z is calling B-S on ‘lifestyle’ social content marketing that has an – at best – tenuous link to the brand using it for marketing.

All this time, the term ‘brand loyalty’ is being bandied about to substantiate content marketing. But in reality, being ‘loyal’ to the identity of a brand on social media because of the content they disseminate, often has little or no relation to whether I’d invest in that product or service IRL (In Real Life).

Real-life returns
To put it simply, if your product or service isn’t working to exceed expectations (or at least meet them) IRL, it doesn’t matter how many egg-boiling advisory boards your brand has on URL (online). Only once the real thing, the tangible, purchasable and usable product has won people over, will ‘brand loyalty’ be worth anything on social media. Brands have to start by establishing real-life brand advocates, before they amass digital ones.

If you’re offering me an incredible product or service, something for me to believe in and buy repeatedly, I can tolerate and even enjoy your content marketing, because the fact that I’ve bought your product means I am, in some small way, already advocating that lifestyle.

Fickle AF
Online, a ‘like’ costs me nothing but a tap. A ‘like’ IRL requires me to spend my hard-earned money on something. They’re two different universes, and my behaviour in one doesn’t determine the other. So if your brand’s call centres are lousy, your stores are disorganised, your clothes fall apart at the seams after one wash, or your waitresses are rude, don’t rely on expert egg-boiling tips online to win me over.

Content marketing can and does work on social media, but it’s about having the foundation from which to work. Instead of peppering newsfeeds with ill-conceived content, why not use the social space to first find out what people think of your brand in the real world?

Use it to gather data to fix real-life problems, then focus on your content marketing strategy. Until I’ve seen you master the perfect soft-white-to-runny-yolk in real life, don’t try and boil my digital egg.

Damn Daniel: A content creator’s guide to making magic

Until a couple of months ago, the words “damnnnn Daniel, back at it again with the white Vans” would have sounded like the musings of a gangster wannabe with a try-hard Snapchat profile. But before two boys got together to show off their Stussy style, with a 30 second video that ended up on Ellen, the true value of oddball content wasn’t fully realised.

For brands vying for space in the digital noise, creating that one-hit wonder can be a bit more difficult, especially if you’re considered a boring or conservative brand, or have traditionally shied away from out-of-the-box thinking. But the principles for fun, fearless content are simpler than content creators realise, so let’s get down low with the four (not-so-secret) secrets of sh*t-hot content:

Tell us a story
There’s nothing worse than content for content’s sake. You want your user to be objectively interested in what you have to say, so remember to include a basic story structure. That is, a clear beginning, middle and end.

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Embrace the awkward
Between above the line outputs, billboards and in-store activations by polished promoters, we’re all a bit sick of rehearsed advertising. Dive into public gaffes, turn sassy user comments into fun conversations or share a blooper reel. Every obstacle has the potential for epic content opportunities.

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Step away from the hard sell
You are not in an early 2000s daytime infomercial. So why does it sound like you’re selling two veggie steamers for the price of one? Audiences are smarter than ever, and it’s hard to compete with a 7 second video of a cat who can say the alphabet.

Remake yourself into a regular, everyday consumer and think about what you’d want to hear. That may be a mix between product and service offerings and something to brighten your day, and then say it as if you’re talking to regular people, with regular lives.

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Press record
Let’s face it – as much as we’re disappointing the Wordsworths of a world past – the future is viewing rather than reading. Modern consumers are expert multitaskers, and tweeting and watching TV happens in almost every home simultaneously.

With this in mind, capture your message in quick, impactful videos and source the best of the web where you can (legally). Gifs, vines and short-form videos are the backbone of digital content, so if you’re serving expert copy without them – prepare for disappointing results.

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Play fast and loose, shoot for the stars, give of your all and avoid clichés (like the beginning of this sentence). Yes you’re a content maker speaking for a brand, but you’re also an individual with a wealth of lived experience that you should always draw on in a sticky situation. And so what if it doesn’t work? You always have an opportunity to start over.

How to create content that connects

This is the golden age of content marketing and nowhere is this more evident than in digital. Content marketing allows brands to go beyond the product push to entertain, enlighten and seduce audiences with useful information aligned with the brand’s strategy and target market. But chances are if everyone in the room is singing, a large number will be off-key. So here are some important points to ensure your content marketing is on-point.

Know them
Understand your audience, beyond demographics. Know their likes and dislikes, their old habits and new favourites. If you don’t have the data, do an audit of the community, with specific focus on pages they follow, who they interact with and how. Then tailor your content to these interests. Content should be informed by the community, not the other way round.

Once you’ve established who your audience is, speak to them like a human being, not a robot. People respond well to conversation, not instruction. Be friendly, authentic and honest. Converse as if you’re having a one-on-one interaction – not as if you’re a brand ‘speaking down’ to your audience.

Forget about shares
Never create content with the main objective of getting organic reach via shares – it will come across as disingenuous and your audience will ultimately see through it. Users are the gatekeepers of their own social feed and you can’t fool them into sharing content – they’re too concerned about their online reputation (most sensible people are). Instead, craft content that resonates with your target audience and if they can relate, they’ll share it.

Take risks
The success of content marketing has lead to the proliferation of content marketing. Everyone wants a piece of the action and wants to be the loudest voice in the crowd. The only way to differentiate is to create content that’s completely unique – and the only way to do that is by taking risks. Don’t play it safe, or you’ll just be creating more noise littering the internet.

Identify the spaces where your brand should participate, and get involved. Determine the value your brand can add for that moment.

Identify influencers
If you’re looking for third-party endorsements for your brand, identify key influencers – but be discerning in your choices. Only team up with influencers who are already natural advocates of your brand, so the partnership is authentic and makes sense. Never work with influencers you have to actively persuade to come on board – they should want to work with your brand, too.

Embrace vulnerability
Experimentation means sometimes getting it right and sometimes getting it wrong. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something – rather adapt and be agile. If something isn’t working, change it up. If it is working, create more content along those lines. It’s essential to be flexible – bend, rather than break. Take your brand out of its glass case. Understand that brands belong to consumers now, not their brand teams.

Agencies and brands can expect big changes in content marketing in the years to come – both in form and function – and that’s what makes it such a thrilling space to navigate. By harnessing the power of content in all its forms, brands can dominate the online and social space.

We’ve got a thing for WordPress

Originally created as a blogging platform eleven years ago, WordPress now hosts around 23% of the top ten million websites in the world, and it’s easy to see why.

The open source software is constantly transforming to allow developers (and average joes) to craft interactive and engaging websites. WordPress represents the evolution of the website as we know it, and allows digital experts (like us) to push boundaries when building websites.

By virtue of the fact that WordPress was created for the everyblogger, there’s a preconception that it’s simply a template-based platform that requires little or no development and creative process. This simply isn’t true. The growth of the programming language behind WordPress has made it infinitely flexible, with no limit on the design, behaviour or functionality.

Here’s why we use WordPress to make your brand’s website breakthrough:

  1. Accessibility and fluidity

The freedom to upload content from anywhere in the world, anytime, is what makes WordPress such an enamouring platform on which to build a website. Using WordPress means we can manage timely uploads of news updates or new, topical information with complete seamlessness, so your website remains relevant.

  1. Integration with social media and SEO

WordPress is constantly being edited and fine-tuned to integrate social media channels. Social icons can be stylishly incorporated into the design the website, and there’s a myriad plugins available to ensure your website’s content is easily shareable. Facebook and Twitter posts can be automatically shared from WordPress itself, cross-linking new and relevant content on your website to connect with your brand’s followers in real time.

WordPress was built with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) in mind from the start. We use WordPress as a powerful partner to customise pages and posts for SEO purposes which in turn makes your content more discoverable and keeps your website at the top of a Google search.

  1. Made for audio and video

These days, it’s not enough for some brands to simply populate their website with stunning visuals – they need to keep viewers enticed with video and audio content too. If you want to use branded multimedia as a content marketing tool, WordPress is the best way to ensure it plays easily and is hosted safely. Curated content can also be embedded into your WordPress site, adding depth to any page.

  1. Syndication made simple

As a digital marketing agency, we know email marketing and newsletters are invaluable tools to get return visits to your websites and enamour people to your brand. WordPress makes syndication of this content easier than ever before, and even allows for automated email newsletters to be generated in custom templates when new content is uploaded to the site.

  1. Fresh designs

Although WordPress is template-based, we use premium (paid for) templates that are completely customisable, with no limits on original design or creativity. The templates we use are like blank canvases with endless possibilities. And the efficiency of using WordPress as a starting point leaves time for us to create a website that’s modern and stunningly unique in design, as well as functional and responsive.

Become a social listener

Social media is nothing more than an ongoing, ever-changing conversation. The discussion topics are varied – sometimes obscure – the tone and landscape changes quicker than you can hit refresh.

This means a key element of any social media strategy should be joining existing conversations – particularly on Twitter, where a hashtag means entry into a debate, an argument, social commentary or, in the case of the recent #BICGate saga, a lynch mob.

If recent social media blunders have taught us anything, it’s that brands that self-implode are generally those that don’t listen to the public sentiment of the moment before communicating with their audience. They forget they’re talking to people, not consumers, and miss the opportunity to connect in a meaningful way.

This post – during the #BICgate debacle – from rival stationery brand Staedtler, worked well in the moment:

In just over 18 hours, this was retweeted 137 times, favourited 96 times and reached more than 32 500 accounts. These analytics show that an intelligently crafted response or comment about a trending topic can be extremely effective for your brand – if it’s done right.

It can mean organic exposure to a more diversified audience, with the added benefit of keeping your brand on trend and in touch. Here are the top five ways your brand can win at being a social listener:

Stop. Listen. Learn

Don’t spend all your time trying to construct your own conversation, rather start listening. Take a newsroom approach, actively search and anticipate trending topics, or keywords relating to your brand, and pay attention to what people are already saying. These conversations are organic and authentic, and present an opportunity to connect with users who might be genuinely interested in your brand.

This shrewd tweet by Nissan at the height of the #RoyalBaby excitement was well-thought out and right on time:

Be timeous

Make sure you’re being a voice, not an echo. Joining a conversation that’s beginning to wane will make you seem out of touch and irrelevant. If you’re going to join in, do it quickly (but carefully) so your commentary or opinion is discoverable. Remember that one post doesn’t a witty conversation make – follow up on your tweet quickly by engaging with users who engaged with you, always answering in the same tone as your initial tweet.

Groupon won at social media when they engaged in a hilarious stream of tweets in response to their post of a ‘Banana Bunker’:

Check for relevance

No one likes a know-it-all. And leaping into a conversation that has absolutely nothing to do with your brand will seem bullish. Random interjects can work, but they have to be uproariously funny and cleverly crafted. So rather stick to what you know.

This tweet by USA-based retailer Kenneth Cole during protests in Egypt – with a not-so-subtle reference to the Arab Spring – was an all-round bad idea:

Test it offline

No community is an island. Never post in isolation. Do your research. If you’re unsure whether your trend-related tweet is inspired or misguided, ask everyone and anyone for their opinion before posting. Get as many insights as possible. Weigh up the offline answers to anticipate what the online response will be. As we’ve already mentioned, social media is simply a conversation, in a different space. It’s run by humans, not robots.

This tweet by USA-based supermarket Best Buy got them into some seriously hot water. The tweet was related to a podcast series about a controversial murder case, in which the evidence hinged on whether the accused had made a call from a pay phone in a Best Buy store. This was probably not the wisest wisecrack:

Avoid the mob

Make sure your comment adds value or humour to the existing conversation – running to join a lynch mob just for the sake of it is neither endearing nor intelligent. Hurling abuse just to be “one of the guys” will do nothing for your brand’s reputation. A quip is okay. Overtly bashing another brand is not. If it’s appropriate, try compliments and encouragement, as opposed to unfiltered criticism. Savanna shows us how trend-tapping is done tastefully with this clever comment:

 

 

Top 5 Instagram trends for 2015

Since the trail-blazing millennials and too-cool-for-Facebook hipsters started the migration to Instagram five years ago, we’ve seen a visual content explosion.

With over 20 billion images uploaded to date, the challenge for amateur smartphone snappers, influential Instagrammers and brands is to remain not only relevant but also exceptionally fascinating.

With constantly emerging and changing trends, this is a moving goal post. So, what’s the latest?

Layout from Instagram – not just another third-party app

You may have seen, tried and deleted hundreds of collage and photo editing apps to date. What makes most of these apps more often misses than hits, is the fact they are created by third parties. Layout is different. It’s the latest photo collage app developed by Instagram for Instagram.

With a selection of up to 10 collage templates and several ‘tweaking’ options, it makes photo collages easy to create and share across other channels.

Why use it? It creates an element of intrigue that will stop users mid-scroll and keep them engaged with your content for longer. It’s also more user-friendly than other photo collage apps and integrates seamlessly with Instagram. Just don’t forget to include #Layout in your caption.

Instagram videos – do the loop

More customisable than Vine, easier to use than Hyperlapse and a whole lot trendier than Snapchat, Instagram video has become the golden egg of Instagram feeds. Earlier this year, the photo-hosting giant introduced ‘looping videos’ – stepping firmly on the toes of the unique Vine offering.

The short-form video format unlocks infinite opportunities for creative executions that tell compelling stories and keep viewers coming back for more – no replay button needed. Brands such as Mini and GAP have set the bar extremely high when it comes to drawing users in to watch the next instalment of the #CountryMan or #SpringIsWeird mini-series.

Use this medium to personify your brand, tell its story and bring it to life in new ways.

Nobody’s going to hashtag your brand #sorrynotsorry

Unless your brand has already received cult status, it’s time to drop your #CompanyName hashtag. The Instagram community sees right through your marketing strategy. Be subtle, be smart and be authentic as you tactfully align yourself with trends using a well thought-out and relevant hashtag strategy.

Instagram is all about being effortlessly cool – overt marketing tactics are the antithesis of that.

Integrate with already existing conversations and trends rather than shouting your unrelated messages out in a crowded room of tortoise shell wayfarers and skinny jeans. That also doesn’t mean that you should include all the conventional #love, #cute, #tagsforlikes hashtags championed by bored teenagers either.

Tailor it to your game and fit it to your target market. GAP got it right here too with their dedicated #DressNormal hashtag. If you’re an outdoor apparel brand, think #campvibes or #beaneaththebrim – something that speaks to your brand’s social personality and associated lifestyle rather than its commercial reputation.

Instameets – gather all the influencers (and their friends)

‘Instagrammers’ are the bloggers of the Instagram tribe. These creative geniuses can be persuaded to craft beautiful content around your brand persona in an authentic manner if you only treat them to the personalised products and experiences that match their creative pursuits.

Invite them for a chat over artisan coffee, casually conceptualise a collaborative Instameet for them and their equally creative friends and watch the visual content flourish around your brand.

Instagram advertising – no free-spirited hipsters here

There’s no room for purist hipster principles here. Social media channels have become a pay-to-play space and Instagram is not going alternative on this one. In 2014, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Snapchat all experimented with advertising options. Instagram will follow suit in 2015.

It is unclear exactly what form this advertising may take place on the platform. Early reports suggest targeting options based on age, sex and location. Start thinking ahead about how to best tap into the opportunities this presents.

The value of social interactions – decoded

In South Africa, brand pages on social networks are undergoing an evolution. What began as me-too mania as they all flocked to platforms like Facebook and Twitter simply because everyone was doing it, is now slowly becoming a far more nuanced and strategic understanding of the role these platforms can play in a broader communications strategy.

Central to this shift is a focus on creating value-added content. This in itself is a seismic shift for many brands whose social pages have been filled with nothing but bland marketing pulled through from above the line and a never-ending stream of content for content’s sake (think irrelevant motivational quotes and the desperate sharing of the latest memes in the quest for attention).

As more brands begin to dip their toes in the waters of unique, valuable content creation, the way success is being measured in social is changing too.

While a follower or a page ‘like’ used to be the social metric, it’s becoming increasingly clear it’s becoming more about how people actually resonate with your content.

The value of an interaction should be determined by the level of engagement required by the user to perform that action, and then the ultimate value of that interaction in terms of how it may amplify that post and extend its reach. This concept can be illustrated as follows:
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With this in mind, the following is a guide to understanding the relative value of social interactions on Facebook:

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