We Understand Your Sector (And We Love It)
The power of passion and being a geek.
The other day I heard a rather surprising statement: “Do you know how difficult it is to find a good freelance marketing company?” This came as quite a shock to me. I mean I always think of the marketing world as being a little over-saturated.
As the conversation evolved, however, I realised that what they actually meant is that it is difficult to find a marketing company that truly understands the particular sector we were talking about.
I admit that when it comes to the commodities and transportation sectors, I am a bit of a geek. I just love the complexities involved; from their colourful histories and the importance they play in our day to day lives, to the challenges they face not just with increasing competition but with changing regulations and public scrutiny. Above all, however, I adore the people involved in those sectors due to their passion.
So, this got me thinking. How can you market a company, brand or product without truly understanding it? Without realising not only how the sector works but what makes the people within the company and their audience (and potential audience) tick?
It's akin to a journalist writing a story on a subject he/she knows nothing about. Take, for example, a story written by a seasoned war correspondent and then the same story written by a rookie who is sat in the newsroom all day with only one source. Nothing undermines a reporter’s reputation more than errors in copy, no matter how small they are.
And the same can be said of marketing copy.
When looking to hire an external marketing/pr/media company, take the time to find someone who is truly passionate about your sector.
There is nothing quite as infectious as someone who is passionate about a subject. This doesn't mean a marketer needs to know everything about the subject, but a clear understanding of the fundamentals and a willingness to read up, listen and learn can make all the difference between an effective marketing campaign and one that falls flat on its face.
Shhhhhh...The Journalist's Secret: What's Your Angle?
To gain mass (and free) publicity, marketers must put themselves in the journalist's shoes.
Pretty much all seasoned journalists will tell you that whenever they conduct an interview, they are looking for the angle. It's a talent that, over the years, becomes second nature.
You see we are looking for that intro. The clincher. The part of a person's story that will hook the reader in and leave them wanting more.
It's akin to a lightbulb moment when it happens. DING DING DING. There it is. I have my angle.
I remember when I first started writing for a newspaper, I would spend an hour contemplating what my intro would be. I would walk around the printing presses that had recently become defunct searching for inspiration. What will be my first sentence? What will interest our readers? What stands out to me most about this story? What won't get me fired?
Writing wasn't about the journalist. Ego is a liability in any newsroom. Writing was about telling someone's story in a digestible format and getting it out there to as many people as possible.
With tight daily deadlines, this creative contemplation process had to speed up in order for me to cut it as a rookie journalist because there were thousands of people that would happily take my spot. And speed up it did. Writing wasn't about the journalist. Ego is a liability in any newsroom. Writing was about telling someone's story in a digestible format and getting it out there to as many people as possible.
You see as a print, radio, TV and social journalist we have so little room to tell a story that when we listen to what someone is saying we are instantly weeding out the chaff from the grain. This is so we can get back to the office and write up our story in time for the editor to give it a thumbs up, the designer to lay it on the page and for the pages to be sent to the printers in time for the print deadline.
Transitioning this skill to marketing, and in particular media relations has been invaluable.
Business owners and communication professionals will often come to me with an idea of the message they want to get out there, and so often, their message just won't cut the mustard when it comes to pitching to the media.
In fact, my very first job in marketing was a long time ago with a fish and chip shop in the UK. Their food was phenomenal, the cook was enthusiastic, but they just weren't being heard above the noise.
Well that was the UK and fish and chip shops are a dime a dozen. It was during a brief conversation I had with the owner over coffee that I discovered he was doing his 20th parachute jump for charity and he was also very much into sustainable practices, during a time when environmental journalism wasn't really a thing. DING DING DING.
I gently pointed out to him that he had hit upon two angles (if not more) that he could easily pitch to the media. I was still a journalist, and yet the idea of helping him promote his business on the side, the business of a man I respected, resulted in me guiding him on a marketing journey and teaching him how to write a press release to capture the journalist's attention.
Sometimes it can take a five minute conversation, sometimes it can take 60 minutes, but everyone and every business has a story. As an ad feature writer back in the day before becoming a journalist, it was my job to find a story in every story; what I discovered was that everyone does indeed have a story.
I remember sitting down with one business owner and asking him to tell me about his company, offering him a number of open questions to get him going. He turned to me and said, “my business is quite boring really.” What? But my editor needed the story and this chap was paying for a four page advertorial! I changed tact. I asked him about his family, his passions, what led him on this journey and suddenly there was a spark in his eyes; he opened up, telling me about how his great great grandfather had actually invented one of the products he was using. You got it. DING DING DING.
Sometimes being a journalist feels a little like being a counsellor. You end up tapping into the wisdom that lies within someone. There's been plenty of times when I've turned my voice recorder off or put my pen down, and allowed someone to just offload. It's not often we get a listening ear.
You may think you want to promote a product, but to the journalist at the other end of the phone or receiving that email, it's just another sales pitch and will likely end up in the trash.
When it comes to marketing and pitching ideas, the same applies. You may think you want to promote a product, but to the journalist at the other end of the phone or receiving that email, it's just another sales pitch and will likely end up in the trash. It's about what makes that product unique; and I don't mean that it is a newer technology or is better than X because of Y. It's about the human angle, the community focus, the history, the passion behind it...and within that you mention the product.
Learning how to find the angle and pitch a story to get mass media publicity takes time. But if you ask yourself this, if people at a dinner party glaze over when you discuss a new steel sheet product you are manufacturing, yet their eyes light up when you discuss how this product is being tested in seismic hazard zones, then, DING DING DING.
Symptom: Social media lethargy. Cure: Visuals
Managing social media and coming up with engaging content can be time-consuming with seemingly little reward.
You've no doubt read (or skimmed past) the countless advice columns from marketers about the benefits of creating a clear social media strategy with measurable objectives, but, with limited resources and an already stretched marketing team, this probably isn't on your list of priorities.
You may have even got to the point where you want to wave goodbye to social media and focus on the day-to-day running of your business. But wait. Firstly, closing down your business social media accounts is a little like putting a closed sign on your door. With new data from GlobalWebIndex stating that the average user logs 1.72 hours per day on social platforms, which represents about 28%, waving goodbye to social media can be risky.
You are also at risk of someone else taking up that space.
So what are the options if you feel yourself becoming bored with social media and increasingly frustrated that your marketing team is dedicating too much time on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Steller, Tumblr, YouTube, Vine etc.?
Here's a suggestion; have you considered posting visual content? The web is now dominated by visuals.
According to a study by Digiday, 95% of marketers say images are more effective than text-only content. A study by Buffer found that Tweets with images receive 18% more clicks, 89% more favourites and 150% more retweets.
The reason, some believe, is because the brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than it does text. Think about it, a harrowing image in the media or a cute animal picture is more likely to receive a share than text saying exactly the same thing. The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words still stands.
So what visuals should you be posting?
Make it original. People tend to steer clear from sharing stock photography (think of the businessman leaping over a hurdle or the handshake and how many, many, many times you've been exposed to those images). If you want to go the stock route, make sure it's high quality and in line with your brand. Original imagery is also far more memorable. Just be sure the image is not grainy or blurry when someone looks at it on a large monitor, unless that's the look you are going for.
Think about what message you are trying to convey and remember the devil is in the detail, so watch for anything in the background that you may have missed. Take time to look at what other images businesses are posting on social media and consider your response to those images. Is it the image you feel yourself reacting to, the colour or what the image is saying to you that is creating the biggest impact? Remember, just like text, images can be easily misread, so think before you post.
As a guide, here are some images that create the biggest response on social platforms:
Inspirational/Aspirational Images: It doesn't necessarily have to be about your brand, but something relating to the philosophy of your company. This can be an event you attended or have held. Also consider posting an inspirational or motivational quote on a photo that reflects your brand. We live in a society where we love to share inspirational sayings, whether that's on t-shirts, mugs, stickers on cars or the internet.
Product Images: Take it at a unique angle, add a filter, bring your product to life. Have your product shot in an unusual location. Invite your customers to take pictures of themselves using your product and tag your company. Be proud of your brand and your customers will be too.
Behind The Scenes Images: This builds your brand personality and creates transparency. The best way to connect with your customer is by showing a human element to your brand. Having a face allows people to connect more easily. Include images of your CEO, your staff at a community event, or a behind the scenes shot of your workplace. Foster that human connection, and don't be afraid to use a little humour!
Remember, social media is a form of cultural voyeurism and people want to learn more about you. Also, don't forget to invite others (that includes staff, customers and followers) to share their photos of your brand.
Tri Working Harder!
How triathlon training has helped me become a success in business.
It has often been said that great athletes make the best business leaders. Having recently competed in Ironman Canada I wanted to take a moment to reflect on this.
I started competing in triathlons in 2007 when I signed up for The South Coast Sprint Triathlon. Now, when I look back, I realize that was when my career path also changed. Since then I have competed in a number of triathlons, an Ironman 70.3 and this year, I will be racing in Ironman Canada. Quite an achievement for someone who would only ever run if she was late for the bus.
Along the way my career journey has paralleled my journey as a triathlete. My goals have become bigger, more focused, requiring more research and a strategic approach.
These are just some of the parallels I have noticed:
Developing Skills And Recognizing Strengths
I've always been a strong swimmer and cyclist, but over the years I have learned to become more efficient. I've listened to advice, tested it out and finally come up with a stride that suits me. However, I remain open-minded. There will always be ways to improve upon my technique and I'm willing to give them a try. I'm confident in my abilities, but if I get a chance to improve upon them, I'm in!
Learning New Skills
I was a terrible runner. I hated running. Did I tell you I hated running? But, in order to complete a triathlon I had to suck it up. However, instead of just pounding the pavements, I realized I needed to change my perspective. After all, so many people love running and get countless benefits from it, there had to be something in it, surely? So I started thinking about how I felt after a run. That feeling of achievement, that sense of accomplishment. Every time I went for a run I would focus on the end goal. Slowly but surely, running became easier, my pace quickened and while it will never be my strongest discipline, I have put a lot of work in and become a pretty decent runner. Sometimes we just need to invest the time.
After each race I would set myself a new goal. Something bigger, something requiring more endurance. I didn't jump from doing a sprint triathlon to an Ironman, as that's not my style. Each goal was greater than the one before, but each goal required more time, more dedication and I would weigh up how much time I had realistically to set aside for the training in order to achieve my goal. Of course, I would sign up for a race with doubts in my mind as to whether I would be good enough; whether I could actually complete the task in hand. But I always made sure I had a strategic plan in place to get me to the end goal. Preparation for me was key.
I am not, nor will I ever be a professional triathlete. For me, it's all about balance. I never even considered giving up chocolate (yikes) or going out with friends for a beer, or taking up a new sport, but I also realized that the bigger the goal, the more focused I would need to be. My days became more structured and suddenly I was shocked at how much more I could fit into my day. It was just a case of planning and time management. It was also a case of accepting that I needed to give some things up in order to achieve my goal and to weigh up whether I was willing to give them up.
Most athletes, at some stage in their life, will be faced with a challenge. Whether it is not being able to train because of other commitments, or, as was the case with me four months back, an injury. I was out on a run when I broke my ankle. It was a silly fall and just unfortunate. I could have easily pulled out of the Ironman thinking I could never compete. Instead, I sought advice from a number of professionals who said that while they wouldn't stop me from competing, I would have to understand I may not be able to run the course. I focused on the other disciplines and I changed up my routine to incorporate strength building exercise so I had other areas I could rely on for the race. And most importantly, I listened to my body. I set myself realistic goals, but ones that still required a lot of hard work. I realized I would no longer be able to achieve the time I had set myself, but I could still finish it. One week to go and my foot is so much stronger and I feel so proud of myself for not pulling out.
Perception And Investment
When you train for an Ironman there are those who look at you as if you've lost your marbles, and those who will admire you for going that extra mile (or 26). You quickly learn that some people will understand, others never will. In the end it's about doing what you feel is right for you, going above and beyond, setting your sights high without negatively impacting others and knowing that at the end of the day you have invested the time and effort and achieved something you may have thought at one time was impossible.
Writing A Kick-Ass Press Release
Throw self-indulgent marketing speak out the window and think like a journalist.
We often get asked at Go Media how our press releases gain so much traction and our response is always the same; write a press release as you would a news story.
If you offer a journalist a well written and well researched piece in the style and flow of their particular publication, you are more than likely to see it published almost verbatim.
First, what message are you trying to communicate and why? The more clear and focussed you are the better.
Then imagine you are the reporter. Picture the story angle. What would appeal to the readers of the magazine/blog/newspaper you are targeting? Is it a new technology that saves carbon emissions equivalent to that of XX number of cars? Is it a member of staff that has recently taken part in an ultra marathon and raised money for charity? Have you moved to a new location that has a macabre history? You have to think what is it about your story that would appeal to the reader. If it's an industry publication, feel free to get technical, if it's a local newspaper, find the community angle.
Often clients will tell us they have a new product they want to alert people about or a new partner has joined the firm and they want to get the word out there. While this may be useful information for your employees, you have to consider what about your news will make readers stop, read it and, more importantly, go away and talk about it.
Sometimes it takes an interview style process to actually find the angle that will appeal to your audience.
Now it's time to write the story. Throw marketing speak out of the window. Get to the point straight away with a punchy intro. What part of your story stands out the most? Forget “sales” speak, forget self-indulgent marketing spiel, marketing today requires you to think like a journalist – K.I.S.S. (keep it short and simple). Add some quotes in to give it a human angle, offer some fun comparisons through stats and then at the end, add a note about the company.
Fact check, fact check, fact check. Gone are the days when journalists would spend hours on a press release, gathering new information and laboriously rewriting it. If you have written something that is worthy of print, then it will often automatically become web content too, so be sure of your facts.
It's time to check your spelling and grammar. While many will argue it is the story that matters, a journalist will find it hard to take you or your message seriously if the press release is riddled with grammatical errors. Spell check isn't enough. If you know this is not your strong point, give it to someone who is a grammar hound and will sniff out those typos and errors. Back in 2013 UK-based Disruptive Communications conducted a survey and found that bad spelling and grammar is the transgression most likely to damage consumer opinion of a brand.
Most publications use different styles such as Canadian Press or Associated Press, but editors won't expect you to learn them and will be able to adjust the text in the editing process.
Once you have copyedited the press release and proofed the final piece, give it a headline and a deck. More often than not this will be changed, but the journalist will give you points for trying.
Now it's time to find out who writes those particular stories for the publication. There is no point sending it to the entertainment editor when it is a press release about a hybrid vessel. And don't blitz countless journalists in one office with the same press release. This is not a numbers game. Many of us here at Go Media are former journalists and recall times when that happened. As a result the press release ended up in the trash because nobody wanted to duplicate work.
Offer something of real value and the journalist will become a friend for life. Add a high resolution photo to your attachment (300 dpi and large) and you will get a gold star. Ask them what stories they like to cover and you will be on the list of "top PR professionals."
At Go Media we are honest with our clients. If they present us with something we feel won't gain traction we will tell them, but we will delve deeper into the “story” because underneath it all there is always an angle worth exploring. Trust us, we are (current and former) journalists.
Time to get your head out the sand.
Social Media: Be your voice. In fact, be your choir.
Social media. Mention those two words at an energy conference and you could find yourself ostracized. So why is it that this sector in particular has an inherent mistrust of social media?
Compelling examples prove that it can be used as an additional channel to engage internal and external stakeholders, and has the potential to influence people's view of your brand, build trust, and get your voice heard. So what’s the problem?
We see it as four-fold:
1. Many companies still see social media as a marketing tool, rather than a means to build the brand. 2. The legal implications, should a post be fodder for a lawsuit. 3. The time and resources needed to make it effective. 4. A feeling of being overwhelmed and just not knowing where to start.
While social media channels aren’t for everyone, the problem lies in that many people now use these channels to find out more about your company. Having no presence, or, even worse, allowing someone else to create a profile on your company, means you could be putting your business at risk of losing its voice at a time where the public is actively seeking out transparency and engagement.
Instead of seeing social media channels as daunting or unwieldy, it could be time to recognize that this is your chance to not only reach out to the public but also inform your employees as to a variety of company activities.
While it is difficult to find a “perfect” example in the oil, gas and maritime sector at this early stage of the game, there are a few companies that have recognized this is their chance to show they are not the just the “big bad polluters” that some may portray them as. Here are four industry companies who are going in the right direction with social media:
Cenovus Energy. 14.7k followers on Twitter. The company posts lots of original content but also a lot of retweets, which, be warned, could turn some followers off. The Cenovus Facebook page has 3,277 likes while the LinkedIn profile has 64,752 followers. The company tends to use the posts to praise staff, and so it has also become an effective internal communications tool.
Suncor Energy. 20.5k followers on Twitter. The company posts mainly original content, and has an excellent balance of current and business news. On Facebook, Suncor Energy has 10,480 likes and its LinkedIn profile has 134,416. Most of the comments on these posts receive a reasonable number of likes and comments, the majority of which are relevant and positive. What really works are the clean images and videos that are posted. Suncor is using social media to build the brand and have its voice heard, as well as an internal and external communications device. It’s a chance to showcase the company's community efforts, too, which help build the public profile.
Shell Canada. 30.5k followers on Twitter. Shell has a mix of highly relevant posts about the company, as well as some excellent informative postings such as how to calculate your CO2 emissions if you are travelling. Shell Canada isn't afraid to include quirky news – this grabs your attention and makes the brand more “human.” On Facebook, unfortunately, type in "Shell Canada" and it looks like it has been grabbed by an outside individual, but the Shell global page has 5,260,543 likes. Over on LinkedIn, Shell has 1,398,756 followers and many comments are regarding jobs and asking the company to check an individual’s profile.
ConocoPhilips. 75k followers on Twitter and 30,477 likes on Facebook. On LinkedIn the company has 358,292 followers. This is one company that gets LOTS of responses to posts. The posts are a great balance between being informative and fun. The messages give you an insight into the company and its employees, as well as community involvement and general energy news. In addition, the company seems to be very selective with its retweets, which is essential.
These companies prove that social media, when done correctly, can help build the brand, increase transparency and shed light on an industry that is often the victim of negative perceptions.
There are some valuable lessons that can be learnt from watching the industry pioneers and the social media teams take on what is still considered to be the “baby” of the internet (although social media as we know it is actually 13 years old now; Friendster, a social networking website, was opened to the public in 2002).
What are those key lessons?
*Open your doors and let people in. The public, stakeholders and your employees love to know what is happening inside the company. Whether that’s what it is like to work in the field or a community event you are organizing. Promote. Engage. Inform.
*Avoid irrelevant retweets/reposts as they dilute your message.
*Post pictures, videos and infographics. We live in a world where the public craves images.
*Define your purpose for using social media (brand awareness/engagement/internal communications) and create a social media strategic plan.
*Ensure your communications team is on the same page, that there is oversight for monitoring posts to cover off the legalities, and review your social media strategic plan on a regular basis. Outside resources can monitor it for you, and fresh perspectives can also be contracted from specialist providers.
*Like any other aspect of the business, it will take work to build up followers, and ensure that what you post is timely and engaging. Responding to comments shows you are listening.
*Remember, followers are your customers/potential customers, stakeholders, current and future employees, or simply members of the public that want to engage. There is a person behind every comment, so treat them with the respect they deserve.
The key is not to put your company at the mercy of public opinion. Be your voice. In fact, be your choir! Not every media channel may be for you, but LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube are as good a place as any to start. And if you can grab your company profile name from Instagram and Facebook and leave it with just one striking image, at least you’ve covered all bases.
Is It Time To Outsource Your Marketing?
Industry sectors are growing their teams from the outside in.
An increasing number of communication departments in industry-leading companies are recognizing the benefits of outsourcing specific marketing functions.
With these departments facing an ever-increasing workload, teams are finding they have a lot of balls to juggle; so farming out specific areas of the business has become both a tactical and strategic practice.
Before deciding on which tasks to outsource, companies are seeing it as essential to understand the key strengths of their internal team. Are they skilled writers with an in-depth understanding of the industry; do they have the ability to recognize copy that could be seen as defamatory; and have the proofreading and fact checking skills necessary to write the material? Is there a trained designer on the team? Does a member of the team have solid speech writing skills or the ability to write an intro on behalf of the CEO? Even where there is a large team, the answer is very often "no."
This is when companies start searching out experienced writers and designers for their press releases, speeches and brochures, or content managers with specific industry experience to look after social media such as web content, blogs and tweets.
In fact, content creation has become one of the top tasks currently being outsourced by the maritime, mining, oil and gas sector. Need a press release turned around in a day? Need a company brochure proofread? Need someone to manage your social media? These are all tasks that can be time consuming and take in-house teams away from the more pressing tasks in hand.
In addition, using freelancers as subcontractors is being seen by some companies to keep costs down on specific marketing projects: there are no overheads associated with payroll taxes, health insurance and even office space, and they can get experts in the field without paying the "expert" costs.
While outsourcing has often been misunderstood, companies are recognizing it is a smart strategy to better manage resources and to present information in the manner it should be delivered – helping them stand out from their competitors.
Taking the initial steps to outsource specific areas of marketing to the right people can be time consuming, but in the end it can save time and money as well as bring in fresh perspectives and ideas.
Those companies who are successfully outsourcing are looking for freelancers that understand their industry and are willing to get involved as if they were full-time permanent employees.
As such, outsourcing is seen as a way of building a team and its expertise. It is about getting the correct message out there, whether that is internally or externally, and utilizing the best resources at hand. In the end, using freelancers on specific projects where they have their own expertise can leave the in-house team of experts to focus on the whole-of-business practices that they do best.
Four Rules To Get Started With Social Media
Focus on the "do" list rather than the "don'ts" and give your audience what they want.
As we suggested in the previous blog, social media requires a real commitment to doing it right. But where do you start?
It's easy enough to draw up a list of “don'ts” when it comes to social media, when in fact companies need be focussing on the “do” list.
Each social media stream – and there are plenty to choose from – must be considered in isolation and as part of a broader strategy. How does it all fit together? How can you create a coherent online presence that reaches your target audience? Which social media works best for you? How do you ensure they are receiving the information that is intended?
It's all about having a proactive strategy, not a reactive one. To get you started, here are four great rules of thumb:
Content and audience
Start by asking yourself what is the purpose of social media to your company. Are you supporting existing customers, reaching out to potential customers, or giving broad commentary on your industry? The focus will be different depending on your audience, as will the content. Existing customers will want support information, or updates on activities relevant to their ongoing relationship with you. Potential new customers will want to find out more to buy in, so social media will be used as a marketing tool. Industry commentary might be reaching out to an even broader audience, including the general public, and will need a different focus again.
Once you have your focus, the next step is creating the content. Let’s take Twitter as an example. Twitter can be used in a number of ways. Shipping industry publication Tradewinds, for example, uses its Twitter presence (@tradewindsnews) to primarily direct readers to content on its website; there is very little original content. In contrast, the Port of Long Beach (@portoflongbeach) has links to website content – news and updates – but also pictures of port activities unique to its Twitter account and even a trivia competition.
Managing an effective social media presence costs, and doing it well can cost a little more. There are the accountants to satisfy and they may be asking tough questions, which is fair enough. If social media is intended to generate sales then generated sales leads will be a measure of success. There are also other standard measures, such as the number of media stories (hopefully positive!) generated from an online press release, blog or tweet.
But there are also social media metrics, such as the number of retweets on Twitter, or the number of followers. Although this can be difficult to evaluate in terms of the bottom line, having an audience should not be underestimated. Twitter, for example, is becoming a major source of information – 8,790 ‘followers’ for the Port of Long Beach, for example. These audiences are becoming more valuable; they may not be potential customers in all cases, but they are growing in importance as consumers of company information (the subject for a future blog).
Who is steering the ship
Under the final heading is the question of how it will be managed. Will it be tightly run by a small team, or will there be a wider number of contributors from throughout the company? A small team can help all the content fit within a coherent strategy, but other contributors can add their own expertise and colour, which can be useful. Who will take ultimate responsibility for the content that goes online? This is the place for the “don’ts” in the social media strategy (such as not posting iphone pictures from the Christmas party).
Producing content for social media often gets foisted on staff that are already stretched for time, even if a coherent strategy is in place. Not only is online posting required, but it also requires ongoing monitoring and evaluation, which also needs a proper commitment. Again, these are some of the many good reasons for getting external expertise to help out – doing it right and in a cost-effective manner.
Ultimately, by having a social media presence, your company is acting as a media company – you’re publishing actual content for consumption by the broader online community. And because social media is now such an important branding tool, consumers of your content will be judging it from a brand perspective, whether you want them to or not.
Social Media: Don't Miss The Boat
Industry doesn't benefit from social media . . . does it?
The appetite for social media shown by niche industry sectors such as energy, mining and shipping has been incredibly mixed over the past few years.
After attending numerous conferences we have heard all sorts of responses to the benefits, or lack of, when it comes to social media. Everything from "social media is a waste of time" and "I don't have a clue where to start," to "I can't believe the response we are getting." Incidentally, the number of Twitter users has grown to over 645 million since it was launched in 2006. Over the past five years, the number of Facebook monthly active users has gone from 58 million to 1.35 billion. Linkedin? Well it is reported to have more than 347 million users.
But one thing is for sure: we can't argue with the facts.
Back in October 2011, international shipping giant Maersk Line decided to launch its social media strategy. This wasn't something that Maersk Line decided in a day. It followed a lot of research, countless discussions and feedback from its customers. And then came the strategic social media plan.
While social media, especially Twitter, may appear to many to be a case of throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks, it requires as much thought and research as any other aspect of the business to make it work. And make it work Maersk Line did. Less than two years later and @MaerskLine has over 114,000 followers.
Admittedly, Maersk Line had the resources to invest in this part of the business, employing a head of social media; but the value is already rather obvious. OK, so measuring the ROI of social media is still in the works, but the free publicity that surrounded Maersk Line's social media campaign was worth far more than countless pages of advertising – and that's not including the buzz that surrounded Maersk Line winning the European Digital Communication Award for Social Media Campaign of the Year.
If further evidence is needed of the value that social media can play for some companies, then it is worth taking a look at the report by the Vivaldi Partners Group entitled Social Media Impact Study 2013.
The report measured the impact of what it describes as “social currency” and looked at which brands are using social media effectively to target consumers. It found that "building social currency is probably the most important investment companies can make to create value for themselves." Quite a bold statement for sure. However, it went on to say that social media helps people to engage and connect with your brand. Key ways to make you stand out from the competition and build trust, no?
In fact, just look at Carnival Cruise Lines and how they have embraced Twitter. At a time when cruise companies are coming under fire from the public for their environmental impact, Carnival has managed to build a community of over 138,000 followers. It was also previously voted by the news website Mashable as one of the Best Twitter Brands. Not bad considering Mashable itself is one of the top media companies on Twitter with over five million followers. Think of the potential reach!
While social media and Twitter in particular are proving to be popular for many industry organizations, there is (as always) a note of caution. As the Vivaldi report states, social media requires real commitment.
There is no success in a half-hearted effort. And with many companies suffering from limited resources and time, this is something that needs to be taken seriously. There is no point starting something you can't finish. This is where outsourcing comes in. But that, my friends, is a topic for a different day.
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