Branding Fought the Law (And the Law Won)

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office received some national attention last week. The Georgia public office didn’t stop a daring robbery though. Instead, the Sheriff’s Office unofficially cancelled Valentine’s Day.

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While also being really funny, this Facebook post served as a reminder that Oconee County was suffering from an unusually heavy ice storm. The post received 1,199 Likes, 170 comments, and 1,693 Shares. The story also ran on the LA Times, Fox News and various local publications.

If you’re a social media manager, you dream about this sort of engagement. But some of you are probably chalking this up to a random event or luck. That’s where you would be completely wrong. Just a quick look at the Oconee County Facebook page tells you that these fine officers could teach people a thing or two about social media. Below are some of the best things on the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page. Be prepared to laugh!

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Whimsy: The personnel at Oconee County are funny and that goes a long way. But more than that, this Georgia Sheriff’s Office is approaching their content in a very fun, engaging way. Trust me, I looked at other public and governmental Facebook pages, and most of them were drier than the last piece of leftover Valentine’s Day chocolate. Instead of presenting their content with a “just the facts, ma’am” approach, the officers at Oconee County are adding a bit of whimsy to their content and that’s helping with their brand.

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Engagement: Who hasn’t used the old “post your winter pictures here” status on Facebook? The difference between success and failure is how Oconee County presents their call to action. They already have a built-in following due to their humor and they included the ever-so-tempting second sentence: “ACE News would like to see…” What Facebook Fan could resist possibly getting their own content put on national TV? This is a brilliant way to get more engagement.

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Content: Not everything Oconee County posts is funny (although quite a bit of it is). This is the online mouthpiece for a Sheriff’s Office, after all. They post about murders and disappearances when they happen. There are also earthquakes and fires. But this little government department manages to show some personality in every post. There are also statuses about officers lost in the line of duty and you can feel the humanity there as well. I’m sure most officers feel this way, but Oconee County shares that insight with their fans, and they are rewarded with engagement and positive feedback for it.

It’s hard to find a post on this page that has less than 10 Likes or Shares. That’s pretty impressive for a local brand, no matter who you are. As of today, Oconee County Sheriff’s Office has 11,201 Facebook Fans in a county with a population of 33,619.

Is your local government’s social media amazing or terrible? Have you found incredible engagement in an unlikely place? I’d love to hear about it. Comment below or tell me about it on Twitter.

Not Even Ron Artest Could Wreck The Pacers’ Social Mojo

As a kid growing up in the Hoosier state, I’ve always been a huge fan of the Pacers. Watching Reggie Miller, the Davis “brothers” and the Dunkin’ Dutchman battle the Eastern Conference elite was a staple of my childhood and something my family enjoyed together.

I was a rowdy fan when we lost to the Lakers in the 2001 Finals and throughout the Jermaine O’Neal years (I still have a pretty clean pair of #7’s Nikes circa 2002) until my fandom was jeopardized by a tiny scuffle at the Palace at Auburn Hills. I wasn’t the only fan who expressed disappointment with the team through boycott. The Pacers were in the NBA attendance basement for several years after the event, including a dead last ranking in 2008.

Fortunately, today’s Pacers are positive role models, talented and light years away from the franchise’s darkest days. As a result, fans are back in full force. Just check out this side-by-side picture showing you the difference between then and now:

Pacers Transformation

But it hasn’t been solely the talented roster, our young head coach or a legendary President of Basketball Operations that have stepped their games up. It’s been an organization-wide effort including the Digital Marketing team. Consider how the team’s approach to social media and fan engagement has helped contribute to the revitalization of the Pacers’ fan base.

They Distribute Great Content

The Pacers’ Digital Marketing team utilizes Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube to connect with fans and share content. Using such a robust and well-rounded mix of social platforms allows fans to connect with the team in their own preferred way. They’re also sticklers about getting the right content on the right platform at the right time. For example, on Instagram fans see images depicting intimate almost “behind-the-scenes” moments allowing fans to feel privy to something special. On Tumblr, the team tells a story through classic photography and connects fans with the team’s rich history.

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What other content does the team consider “high quality?” According to Celeste Ballou, the Pacers Digital Marketing Manager, the team focuses on “getting great photos, quotes, linking to relevant, interesting content on our websites, ticket offers, and creating well-designed graphics that excite fans enough for them to share and like.”

They’re Focused on Engagement

The team’s dedication to fan engagement has been noticed and appreciated by many. This approach helped them surpass 1,000,000 Facebook fans earlier this year and recently landed them an NBA award for Social Media Engagement. So how exactly do they foster social engagement? Here are a few specific types of content they offer: About the players info, game schedules, mid-game posts and score updates, questions to fans, and game results. According to PRWeb, another key component of their engagement is tied to how often they reply to fans’ messages. The Pacers excel in this area, trailing only the Brooklyn Nets in this category last season.

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When you look closely at the Pacers’ non-basketball operations, you realize that their players and coaches are backed by an equally skilled group of supporting professionals. Everyone is on the same page and working toward a single goal. Do you think Ballou’s team has any “NBA Champions” graphics in the works yet? Connect with me on Twitter @AHersh317 to talk social media, Pacers or the boxer formerly known as Ron Artest.

Brand Ambassadors: Conversation is the New Marketing

Are you engaged?

I’m not talking about your personal life. I am talking about you and your brand’s social media community. It’s easy to tune out your followers and simply post your content on a daily basis, but there’s a difference between broadcasting your message while hoping that your fans respond and actively engaging with your community’s discussions.

What is engagement? Engagement happens when you listen to your fans, allowing them to voice their opinions and discuss ideas with you. This shows your audience that you value their feedback and care about what they want to see from you. It’s also a great way to humanize your business and have a personality. That’s what social media is about, after all.

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Why is engagement important? When you are talking with your fans, you are essentially building a relationship. You have taken down the “business walls” and are now on a personal level. Once you find your dedicated fans and engage with them, a community begins to build. Within this community are your brand ambassadors. 85% of fans of brands on Facebook recommend brands to others, according to Syncapse. These people are your word-of-mouth marketing team that will be spreading your presence to the people in their lives.  You aren’t even paying them, how great is that?

After you have actively engaged with your customer-base over an extended period of time, you will start to understand what they are looking for. Use this information as free market research to help you successfully roll out new products or services. When you study buying personas and keyword usage, you can even roll out a product or service that your customers didn’t even know they wanted.

What’s more valuable than a fan of your company? An engaged fan! There’s a reason people follow and engage with companies on social media: they want to be a part of that culture. According to eMarketer, 46% of customers want to solve a problem when they engage a brand on social media, and 39% are looking to give feedback. Posting a question or survey will get you some responses but if you don’t do anything with those answers then you are wasting valuable information. Instead of sitting back and watching the responses come in, reply to them and get some valuable real-time feedback from your brand ambassadors.

Do you manage a brand’s social media presence? How are you engaging on those accounts? Do you search out for the conversation or do you let the conversation come to you? I would love to hear about some success stories you’ve had creating brand ambassadors for your clients in the comments below!

Engagement vs. Reach: Which is More Important?

Have you seen a drop in engagement on your Facebook posts with photos?  You have the perfect picture, the perfect caption and you have studied your analytics for the right time to post the photo. As you wait and watch for the likes and engagement to come rolling in, you realize that your fans just aren’t seeing the photo! You need to head back to the drawing board and I’ll tell you why.

Last year, Facebook changed their algorithm that determines how many people see your post. Facebook stated that they did this to de-clutter the amount of posts you see on your smartphone or tablet. You have the analytics of WHEN your fans are online, but now you have to take into consideration how your fans are logging onto Facebook. Everyone knows the acronym K-I-S-S (Keep It Simple, Stupid) and as great as your photo looks, sometimes all your fans need is a quick one or two sentence post.

What’s more important, engagement or reach? The obvious answer is both, but can you have engagement with reach and vice versa? It’s the chicken versus the egg conundrum.

I recommend testing the “text-only” theory by creating a few statuses that that give out advice or a tip on something your business specializes in. Remember to keep it text only! This will give you the “reach” you need to attract other people and showcase your expertise. Remember to post at the same time of day you normally would to get an accurate comparison. Be creative and remember to add a call to action.

I recently tested the text-only theory on a few pages that I manage and the results were mixed. I asked a simple one-sentence question and it did receive more views then a recent post with a picture did, but engagement was minimal. The post received a few likes but no one answered the question. I’m calling it a minor success because I did reach more people in the end. As you can see though, just because I had a bigger reach did not translate into better engagement.

We all know that a great photo is easily shareable, but what about a great text post over a mediocre photo? No matter what, quality and originality will always win. Regardless of what you post, as long as it’s good content, it will prevail. Have you noticed a similar trend in your posts? Tell me all about it in the comments section or on Twitter, @Cbyron11.

Don’t Get Duped Into Buying Fans Online

Were you one of the people who downloaded the app InstLike? There were over 100,000 people  that did, so don’t worry, you weren’t the only one who fell for this scam.

For the fortunate ones that don’t know what I am talking about, InstLike was an app that promised you more likes and followers on Instagram. All you had to do was give them your username and password. The app would start following random people and liking random photos. Also, the user would start with 20 virtual coins to use to purchase more followers or likes. You could use one coin for one like or 10 coins to add a follower. If you referred a friend, you could get 50 additional coins, which is why this app spread so quickly.

So what’s wrong with buying followers?

There is a common misconception about social media that the more followers and fans you have the more successful your company is, but that’s not the case. I’ll admit it: buying fans online can seem enticing. Adding 50,000 followers can stroke your ego for a bit…but then what? You might have 50,000 followers, but they won’t engage with your content. Those followers are not bound to any contract to follow you forever and after awhile they will hit the unfollow button. Over time, those 50,000 will start dwindling down. Quality fans that engage with you are much more valuable than thousands of followers you buy, which in most cases are out of the country.

It’s fairly easy to tell when a Facebook page has been buying likes. First, click on their likes box that shows the number of fans, where you will get an insight into who the fans are. An important piece of information you will find is the city that the page is most popular in. If it is a local business, it should be in that city. If the business did in fact buy likes, the city in which they are most popular won’t be the same as their physical location, which doesn’t do anyone any good.

What can you do instead?

If you’re willing to spend money to buy fans and followers, why not use that money to run a Facebook or Twitter ad? You can promote your page or posts to your ideal audience, which in turn can gain you fans and followers that will actually benefit your business. For example, if you are a local flower shop, promote a post about flower arrangements to people in your city that are interested in weddings or special events. By doing so, you might gain fans that are interested in purchasing your product, engaging with your page and spreading the word about your company to their immediate circle.

If you want to increase your following without spending any money, you need to commit to spending some time working with your pages. Be active in your social community, commenting and sharing content from other people and businesses. In turn, these people and businesses will likely support you. Engagement is the key to increasing your online following! Remember: social media success is not overnight, it takes time and effort to build your online network.

Utilize your email list. Let your fans know that you’re on social media via an email blast and give them the links to follow and like your company. Chances are if they get your email, they’ll want to follow you online. Let your email base know that you’ll be offering specials sales, discounts and insider info through your social networks so that they have a reason to follow you. According to an infographic by KISSmetrics, by a margin of 64%, users are more likely to buy from brands they follow on Twitter.

If you only take one thing away from this blog it’s that you should be wary of any third party company asking for your password. The one thing I was told the first time I created an online profile was to never give out your password and that’s never been truer in this day in age.

Transform Your Facebook Posts With Facebook Insights

After last week’s blog, I’m sure you are all experts with Facebook Insights, right?

The average Facebook user likes 40 Pages on Facebook, so how do you make your business stand out? I’m going to highlight some of the more important tabs and features to help make your posts more engaging. Sure, every bit of information with within Insights is important, but as a business owner you just do not have the time to continually analyze every bit of it. All I need from you is a small commitment of time every week to go over the information.

The first tab to pay particular attention to is the Posts tab. This tab gives you two bits of great information that will help you out. The first graph you see shows when your fans are online. Like I mentioned last week, this graph does not portray the number of people that see your posts but the total number of people who have liked your page and are most likely to engage with your content. Now you won’t find the exact perfect time to the minute to post, but it will give you a general sense of when you should be posting. For instance, if you are a restaurant or bar that is only open at night, you will quickly notice that if you post in the morning those posts will get lost throughout the course of the day.

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Further down the page, you will also see a list of your most recent posts, what type of posts they are and the posts’ engagement levels. One thing you should take notice of is the time of each post. This information, along with the graph, will help you when determining when to be post. You will also get a good sense of what type of posts your fans enjoy the most, whether it’s a link, picture or just a few lines of information. We always recommend posting some type of media with each post; posts with images get the highest amount of engagement on Facebook (the perfect picture size is 800×600).

Another great tab to focus on is the People tab. Here you will get a good understanding of the demographics of your fans and the people who are engaging with your posts. Knowing the age group and sex of your most engaging fans will help you keep your posts tailored to those groups. Did you know that 66% of millennials (15-34 year olds) use Facebook? Unfortunately, you can’t assume that is the target age group on your Facebook Page, so check out your specific statistics.

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These are two very valuable tools for you to better understand your fans, but don’t ignore the other four tabs. Facebook is continually making it easier for businesses to market on their Page and I will always be helping you understand how to get the most out of it.

From Lone Wolf to Joining the Pack: Alex’s Journey Through Social Media

My journey into the world of social media has been a particularly interesting endeavor. I started working in social media for the local government, assisting multiple State Senators to better reach their constituents online. Following my stint at the Statehouse, I moved onto working as PR/Social Media Manager in IndyCar. Now, here I am as a Social Media Manager for Dream System Solutions, and my experiences have been noticeably different in the time that I have been here.

In regards to which is better between having an internal social media managers and using a firm, I can’t help but think about the differences of working for just one company without comparing it to a firm specializing in the same field. Looking back, working as an internal Social Media Manager taught me a lot of valuable lessons about engagement, trends and what it means to represent a company. However, the negatives greatly outweigh the positives.

During my time with both companies, I eventually ran into many stone walls – mostly involving creativity. My biggest problem centered around trying to reinvent the wheel on how to build and obtain interest with my followers. I would frequently research new trends and how to reach out to people on Twitter and Facebook, but nothing seemed to really change. After months of spinning my wheels, I eventually had to succumb to the reality that as one person, I could only take my company to a certain height before levelling off in the online world.

…and that was where I was wrong.

When I first started for DSS, I expected the same old situation to happen, but in a new office. I half expected to start off strong creating new and exciting things to publish online, then level off on new ideas to do over time. However, this time things felt different. This time I am surrounded by people who have made their careers doing the same thing I have. Now I am working with others who can help me, who can understand what goals I am trying to accomplish for my clients.  That moment could only be described as a weight taken off my shoulders, because now I could really do something special. Now I am with like-minded people that I could lean on when I hit writer’s block; I could see social media through a different lens and take new and different approaches to how I can do my job better. Now, things are completely different for me.

I have been blown away by the differences of what I was used to and what I was seeing. If asked what my unapologetic opinion is as to which is better for the client and their followers, I would tell you that utilizing a social media firm will change their online presence into something like arriving in the land of Oz. In that sense, everything I saw in social media was changed from the black and white of an internal position into a colorful and creative new way of seeing the industry while working in a firm.

With a team of social media managers, creative juices flow, new ideas are discussed and strategies are constantly being evaluated and refined. The biggest shock to me was realizing that we weren’t just doing social media for a company. We are bettering a client’s brand, building their business and making both companies more successful than the day before. For the first time, I am working in a company whose sole purpose is to focus on branding a client to the masses in a more engaging and invigorating fashion.

The simple truth of the matter is that with a social media firm, you are getting more bang for your buck. Yes, you are technically hiring one person to manage your online accounts, but you’re also paying for intangibles that you wouldn’t normally get with an internal employee. With hiring a firm, you get many more perks that remain behind the curtain. Perks such as knowing that your social media manager is working in a think tank every day to pull fresh ideas and new strategies. It’s a harsh reality to face, but that is something you cannot get with hiring just one or two people internally.

If you still are on the fence on which option is the best decision, I encourage you to consider what is in the best interest of your company. With an internal employee, you have someone who has a relationship with the company. However, a social media firm has more of a professional relationship with a company. Our sole focus is bettering a company’s business. If that goal isn’t met, the job isn’t done. Firms want to see a thriving trend of interest in a particular company, because that means they are doing their job.

For me, the best way to explain the relationship a social media firm has with a client can be summed up with Cuba Gooding Jr’s line in Jerry McGuire: “Help me, help you.” The better a firm does their job, the more success your business will see.