From implementing the latest and greatest SEO strategies to maintaining a relevant presence on social media channels, there are plenty of ways to spend your marketing dollars.
But how do you know which marketing tools will give you the greatest return?
The answer to that question seems to change faster than most of us can keep up with.
A better question may be: Which marketing tools reflect the mindset of online consumers and put the customer first?
The best part about customer-focused marketing is that your customers are more than willing to tell you what they want if you will let them. All you have to do is listen.
Research can tell us a lot about customer behaviors and the motivation behind those behaviors, but no study can enlighten us more than social listening.
Social listening means monitoring social media channels for mentions of your brand, industry, products, and relevant keywords. It also means doing the same for your competitors and similar industries.
Monitoring social media is all about data collection, and social listening is putting that data to work by taking action.
Those actions range from something as simple as reaching out to a happy customer to a major step like adjusting your brand positioning.
The availability of listening tools is increasing because social media users are engaging with brands more often and are expecting that engagement to be a two-way street. Your customers are telling you loud and clear what they want from your brand.
Think about it. The information and feedback you have coveted for so long is right at your fingertips if you will only listen.
Identify where people talk about you and your industry, not just what they say. Your customer personas, customer journey map, and other data will help identify where to find the best places to listen.
Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, LinkedIn, and other prominent channels are probably first-up for places to lend an ear, and you will discover more places as you learn to listen better.
Here is what to listen for:
Your brand name, hashtags, and slogans
Your product names, including common misspellings
Your competitors’ brand names, product names, hashtags, and slogans
The names of key players in your company and your competitors’ companies—CEOs, spokespeople, etc.
Marketing campaign names and keywords
Unbranded hashtags relevant to your industry
Do you want to know who is influencing your audience, how to create better content, and stay abreast of trends and insights for your industry?
Start listening and start giving your customers more of what they want.
“Stories on social media is no longer “just a trend” —Block Party estimates that 4 out of 5 major brands are using the stories format on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and other platforms with promising results.
64% of respondents of Hootsuite 2019 trends survey said that they have either implemented Instagram Stories into their social strategy or plan to do so in the next 12 months.
“[Instagram] Stories are soaring in popularity, and the user behavior on Stories leans toward playful, low-fi, quick content with heavy use of features within the UX (GIFs, boomerangs, polls, etc).
Their fleeting design is not the only differentiating factor. Instagram Stories can be heavily edited, too, with filters, GIFs, colored text, and more.
Because of these fun additions, brands have added a brand new strategy for producing and publishing ephemeral content that varies from their other social media content.”
While the “stories” approach in digital marketing may be familiar to many marketers, the growing popularity of ephemeral stories is a trend that is just coming into its own.
Ephemeral content is only available for a limited amount of time. On Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram stories, this content can be shared for up to 24 hours before it disappears.
Block Party reports that the stories format had a 15x growth rate compared to other feeds across major social media platforms. This is based on a comparison of the Top 3 feed platforms — Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and the Top 3 stories platforms — WhatsApp, Instagram, and Snapchat.
Consumers, especially Millennials, are devouring this short-lived content because they crave authenticity from brands. That authenticity combined with the inherent sense of urgency creates higher engagement rates.
Here is an example of a branded Instagram story. Short, to the point, and only available for a limited time.
It is important to understand that ephemeral content is unique among your marketing tools.
Ephemeral content does not focus on features, benefits, and other selling propositions. It focuses on showing a brand’s “human side” by telling stories that resonate with your customers.
To put this powerful tool to work for your brand, you have to create high-quality storytelling. Here are ways to create authentic stories for your brand:
Videos of your products or services in action featuring actual users
Behind-the-scenes stories about your business and the people involved
Memes that “poke fun” at some of your brand or industry idiosyncrasies
Images that focus on your brand’s culture, like community outreach programs
Share customer testimonials using their own words
Begin by creating a strategy with a specific goal such as highlighting your brand’s humorous side or its philanthropic endeavors.
Create campaigns with a narrow focus and a clearly defined goal, create a steady flow of authentic stories, and watch your customers share and engage.
Influencer marketing plays a critical role across a range of platforms in ads, blog posts, and other messaging.
But brands should not limit themselves to dreaming of collaborating with celebrities when there is a steady supply of micro-influencers. Micro-influencers have carved their own niches in social media and they can help you connect, boost brand awareness, and convert.
Micro-influencers are social media promoters with a smaller following, typically in the thousands. These influencers may have fewer followers, but their content often creates higher levels of engagement.
Markerly studied Instagram engagement and found some interesting results. As an influencer’s number of followers increases, their number of likes, comments and general engagement from followers decreases.
These “everyday” people with fewer followers but more engagement are viewed by audiences as more authentic and relevant. Followers trust these micro-influencers because they are more like them than those elusive celebrities.
Banana Republic uses micro-influencer marketing to promote its clothes to audiences who follow influencers that are known for their sense of style. These fashion and lifestyle influencers help Banana Republic reach a large and targeted audience.
It may be tempting to become enamored with influencers who have a large following, but keep in mind that genuine influence lies in engagement rates. Micro-influencers are the future of influencer marketing because they are more accessible and more relatable.
Here is how to find micro-influencers for your brand.
Start by researching your network. Look for people at industry events, people you work with in parallel industries, and your customer base.
Dig into your social media platforms and identify which followers are engaging with your brand consistently. Follow them and see what micro-influencers they follow. You may even find that one of your followers is a good candidate.
Follow hashtags specific to your brand or industry keywords to pinpoint conversations that can help you discover prospective influencers.
Browse your blog’s comments and get to know who is behind the comments to identify potential micro-influencers.
Once you find a few prospects, delve into their social media and follow them to see if they fit with your brand’s message and culture.
Once you find a good candidate, begin developing a relationship. Your goal is to build trust and establish a mutually beneficial collaboration so your micro-influencer will share your tweets, blogs, and other marketing messages.
Your micro-influencer should help build your brand by being themselves and not through sales or marketing pitches. Think of them as your brand’s ambassador, not your brand’s promoter.
Begin listening more, sharing the human side of your brand, and collaborating with influencers to get more out of your marketing budget.
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