Do You Know Your Lemons? … and other #creative hashtag campaigns

Thank you Sprout Social for this well written article about engaging your customers through creative hashtag campaigns. #lovethis!

The hashtag frenzy has been an important element in the rise of social media. It’s hard to achieve true brand awareness without at least one or two hashtags in your repertoire.

Not only does the right hashtag help you to connect with targeted audiences on social media, but a branded hashtag can also help give life to your digital identity, providing additional reach, impact and personality.

With approximately 81% of Americans using social media in 2018, companies can’t afford to overlook one of the most important resources in social.

But it’s not always as easy as it looks to craft, create and strategize your hashtag campaign. But don’t worry–we have you covered. To help inspire you for your next hashtag campaign, let’s look at eight creative campaigns in the last year or so:

1. #KnowYourLemons: Worldwide Breast Cancer

Often the best branded campaigns on social media are those with an important and meaningful purpose. In 2017, the Worldwide Breast Cancer organization launched its hashtag campaign #KnowYourLemons to convince women to check their breasts for signs of cancer more frequently.

The catchy concept went viral almost instantly. It was a fun and interesting way to give women the important information they needed to spot the lesser-known symptoms of cancer. The charity launched its own Facebook member’s page where people could take part in conversations about the subject. This extra step made the experience more engaging for everyone involved.

#KnowYourLemons Infographic

What We Loved About It:

The creativity in this hashtag campaign was a fantastic way to raise awareness for an important cause. However, the most exciting element of the strategy was that it made crucial information accessible to everyone. You didn’t need a doctorate or a high literacy level to learn more about breast cancer.

Using a light-hearted concept to convey a message about a serious subject, the Worldwide Breast Cancer group exceeded their Just Giving fundraising target by 317%.

2. #TeamVisa: Visa

At the beginning of 2018, Visa jumped on the Olympic fever bandwagon for the winter games. Since 2000, Visa has earned a reputation for accepting athletes around the globe into its “Team Visa” program. The program provides people with the resources they need to achieve their sporting ambitions. Ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics, Visa launched a special campaign to demonstrate how athletes can get involved with #TeamVisa.

The great thing about Visa’s campaign is that it takes advantage of a trending topic to draw attention to an existing product. The company teamed up with influencers who were sure to get plenty of attention around the winter games. Everyone from Billy Morgan to Elise Christie got involved.

3. #BrandBowl: Twitter

While there are 330 million monthly active users on Twitter, some experts suggest this social media platform isn’t seeing as much growth as its competitors. Fortunately, the channel decided to tackle this problem with a hashtag campaign of their own at the beginning of 2018.

Twitter announced at the end of January they would launch their #BrandBowl campaign alongside the Super Bowl. This was perfect timing to be involved with one of the most talked-about events on social media. The #BrandBowl campaign was a social contest designed to award companies for different achievements, like:

  • The brand with the highest number of tweets
  • The brand with the highest tweet per minute score
  • The brand with the most retweets

View image on Twitter

What We Loved About It:

To help improve engagement, Twitter combined the excitement of a social media contest with the appeal of an important trending topic. #BrandBowl gamified the concept of talking about companies, to ensure that everyone was chatting on Twitter during one of the most important sporting events of the year.

4. #ORIGINALis: Adidas

2017 was a highly successful year for Adidas. The company managed to cement its position as both a fashion icon and thought leader with its #ORIGINALis hashtag campaign. The promotion centered around the new Adidas Originals line, and asked people to re-think the concept of being unique.

Adidas partnered with some of the biggest names in the hip-hop world, including Stormzy, Snoop Dogg and ASAP Ferg to promote their new lineup. The brand even created a video to help link its products back to the idea of hip-hop culture.

What We Loved About It:

The first thing that makes the #ORIGINALis hashtag campaign so effective is it’s targeted appeal to Adidas fans. On top of that, in a world where influencer marketing is one of the best ways to generate trust for a company, Adidas managed to partner with some of the most influential figures in the hip-hop environment.

Overall, Adidas just goes to show that the best brand hashtags can help to establish credibility for a company and elevate its position in any marketplace.

5. #WeAccept: Airbnb

Sometimes the best brand hashtags are the simplest. And that’s certainly the case with Airbnb’s campaign from 2017 revolving around the hashtag #WeAccept. This popular branded hashtag was a great way for the travel giant to share the universal nature of their company while showing their support for a crucial ethical issue.

The campaign began with an inspirational video posted on the Airbnb branded social media feed. It continued with a selection of emotional photos delivered by people from different backgrounds and places around the world.

What We Loved About It:

It’s not always easy to produce an effective political campaign. This is particularly true on social media where everyone has an opinion that they’re ready to share. Fortunately, this hashtag campaign saw an incredible response, with hundreds of thousands of supportive likes and comments.

The theme of acceptance helped Airbnb to present themselves as a more approachable and authentic company on social media.

6. #WhatsInYourBag: RYU

People don’t just visit social media for information and news. We also use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to add a little bit of fun into our lives! That’s why building an Instagram hashtag campaign around a giveaway or competition can be such a great idea for building engagement. Ryu did this with #WhatsInYourBag campaign.

Ryu’s campaign was a great example of a social photo contest that leveraged the trend of Instagram Stories to increase their follower count to well over 20,000.

What We Loved About It:

Hashtag campaigns with gamified elements like competitions or giveaways are a great way to build engagement for a company and encourage your customers to share user-generated content on your behalf. Ryu’s branded hashtag prompted people to share more photos in relation to the brand. This instantly expanded awareness for the company and helped to add a little fun to their identity.

7. #TrippinWithTarte: Tarte Cosmetics

It seems like everyone is investing in the power of influencer marketing lately and Tarte Cosmetics are no exception. In 2017, the company flew a gang of fitness and makeup influencers to an island off the coast of Australia and followed up with them with plenty of Instagram-able excursions like candlelit dinners, yoga, hikes and more.

The hashtag #TrippinWithTarte also encouraged followers of the makeup brand to get involved with their own outdoor experiences, sharing photos that highlighted the versatile nature of the company.

What We Loved About It:

Not only did this creative campaign give Tarte Cosmetics plenty of great content to share on social, it also presented a great opportunity to reach out to new audiences. The influencers were all picked carefully based on their follower count and industry niche, meaning that Tarte could connect with thousands of new users within a matter of weeks!

8. #OpenYourWorld: Heineken

During 2017, Heineken decided to follow the trend of using social media to shed a light on important social concepts by conducting their very own experiment. The beer company used #OpenYourWorld to see how easy it was for people with opposite social and political views to accept each other when they went through a series of team-building activities together.

When everyone at the end of the experience shared their political or social views with the other, Heineken offered them the opportunity to share a beer and discuss their differences–something they all chose to accept.

What We Loved About It:

The #OpenYourWorld hashtag campaign addressed a meaningful concept in a new and heartwarming way. The first video achieved around 3 million views within the first week of its launch and around 50,000 shares in its first month too.

Heineken shows how addressing an important idea with your social media campaign can help to get people talking about your brand and strengthen new relationships.

 SproutSocial.com is one of my go-to resources for smart writing and great ideas – consider adding them to your must-read list too.

Then the assistant asked “what’s your favorite vegetable?”

https://www.fastcompany.com/40465774/10-questions-for-getting-to-know-your-direct-reports-faster?utm_source=postup&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Fast%20Company%20Daily&position=8&partner=newsletter&campaign_date=09182017

The other day my hairdresser’s new assistant asked me what my favorite vegetable was.  I thought she was asking in some context related to hair, but she told me she had a series of questions she was using to open conversations with the salon’s customers and thus improve her communication skills too.  That was a first, and it worked as we went on to talk about other topics and got to know one another.

The link above will take you to a Fast Company piece on using 10 questions you can use to get to know your team better… you might even learn they love artichokes!

When you hire a new team or inherit someone else’s, your first instinct as a manager might be to assess the situation for the best way to move forward–and fast. But if you aren’t careful, you’ll create more problems than solutions for you and your new team. Before you start diagnosing your team’s challenges and look for ways to improve, it’s crucial to take a step back and get to know your new direct reports.

The key is to learn how to support your team in the most effective way for them, not just for you. To do that, you have to listen first, diagnose second. Just as in relationships outside the workplace, the better you get to know someone, the better you can collaborate. That takes time, but there’s one way to jump-start the process: These 10 questions can help you quickly take the pulse on your new team members and their hopes for you as a manager.

1. WHAT ARE SOME FEATURES OF YOUR BEST WORKING RELATIONSHIPS WITH PREVIOUS MANAGERS?

Knowing what qualities your team admires in a manager can help you quickly adjust your style for each direct report. You may learn that they crave autonomy, or that they prefer more active support. This can help you graduate from instinctively providing the management support you prefer to intentionally providing the management support they prefer.

Plus, asking your team to describe traits they’ve admired in previous managers–rather than in the abstract–also ensures their answers are grounded in specific, real experiences, which may prove more actionable for you.

2. WHAT ARE SOME FEATURES OF YOUR WORST WORKING RELATIONSHIPS WITH PREVIOUS MANAGERS?

Learning about the bad side of your team’s past management experiences can be just as instructive as hearing what worked. Whatever created friction with previous managers is usually something to avoid, adjust to, or just keep an eye out for. And because it’s sometimes harder to articulate positive feedback than negative feedback, you may find you learn a lot more by asking this question than you do by asking about positive qualities (even though both are important).

3. HOW TRANSPARENT DO YOU PREFER MANAGERS TO BE?

Some teams prefer the full play-by-play as it happens. Others would rather skip the details and just be kept in the loop only as necessary. While some teammates love to follow every step of whatever changes might be happening, others find that distracting and even demoralizing. As a leader, you’ll be privy to information others won’t be. So finding out what level of transparency your team expects from you is an important factor in how, what, and when you communicate to your team.


4. HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO USE OUR ONE-ON-ONE TIME?

Every one-on-one meeting is different. While one team member may come to you with a list of updates and specific actions they need you to take, others may use the time to brainstorm solutions to a certain problem, while still others may arrive with no agenda at all. You can certainly find out your team members’ preferences by experience, but asking this question up front encourages them to think more intentionally about your time together, and how you can best support them.

5. HOW DO YOU LIKE TO RECEIVE PRAISE?

You expect your team to do great work–so how do they like to be celebrated when they do? Here, too, everyone you manage will be different. Where one person might love public recognition, another may cringe in the spotlight and prefer one-on-one or even written praise. Check in with them early on to avoid inadvertently embarrassing your direct reports.


 

6. HOW DO YOU LIKE TO RECEIVE CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK?

Feedback is essential to your direct reports’ growth, and it’s your job to help them improve in big ways and small. But depending on the person, feedback can be something they dread or something they hunger for. It may be something they prefer to hear in real time, or something they’d rather get after the fact so there’s time to reflect on it. There are many ways to deliver critical feedback. If you’re not sure what the best approach is for your direct reports, just ask.

7. ANYTHING I SHOULD KNOW ABOUT YOUR WORKING STYLE?

Working styles are highly individualized. Some people prefer meetings in the afternoons and thinking time in the morning. Others value getting home early enough to put their kids to bed. Where one direct report may crave structure, another may seek opportunity in chaos. What does it take for your team to do their best work? Ask your direct reports to self-reflect so you can identify what it takes to help them feel happy and productive.

8. WHAT EXPERIENCES MAKE YOU HAPPY AT WORK?

Which environments, situations, or projects get your team riled up? Do they enjoy projects that draw notice from elsewhere in the organization, or would they rather focus on work that makes an impact outside of the spotlight? Do they prefer to collaborate, or to keep their heads down to get the job done? Knowing these preferences early on helps you figure out which projects, staffing, meetings, or even desk areas best align with the types of things that make your direct reports happiest at work.

9. WHAT EXPERIENCES MAKE YOU STRESSED OR FRUSTRATED AT WORK?

On the flip side, what drains them? What makes one person jazzed can cause serious stress for another. For instance, too much socializing can be challenging for more introverted types on your team; too much solo work can make your more extroverted direct reports feel isolated. Knowing what triggers stress in the people you manage can help you avoid potentially frustrating scenarios before things get out of hand.

10. WHAT ARE SOME THINGS YOU’RE HOPING I CAN HELP WITH?

As a leader, you may have a mental list of your strengths and be ready to share them with your team. But the strengths you see in yourself may be different from the strengths your direct reports see in you–or the ones they need from you.

For instance, if relationship-building comes naturally to you, you may take it for granted (“that’s just who I am”)–but someone on your team may see and admire that quality in you, and hope to learn from you in that area. On the other hand, if you know you’re a strong presenter, you might be inclined to teach others that skill, too, when unbeknownst to you, what they really want your help in is running more effective meetings and setting better agendas. Asking this question helps you understand the delta between the help you’re preparing to offer and the help your team members are hoping to gain.

Needless to say, while these questions can be helpful, they’re just a humble start to getting to know your team. They’re not enough to replace your long-term efforts to build strong relationships with the people you manage. That takes time, but with this 10-question “intake form,” so to speak, you can get a running start on a process that might take other managers weeks or even months to begin.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ximena Vengoechea is a design researcher, writer, and illustrator whose work on personal and professional development has been published in Inc., Newsweek, and the Huffington Post. She currently works at Pinterest as a qualitative researcher.

I’d really like to ask Zimena about her job at Pinterest, perhaps that will be a future column … enjoy your day, and eat your vegetables!

Want To Get Your Company On Those Big Blue Highway Exit Signs?

Have you wondered how businesses get their logo on those big blue signs on the highway that tell drivers what’s at the next exit?

As a marketer, leave no stone unturned to get customers to your location or that of your client.  Far better to get one highway sign than to get hits on social media – this sign brings results 24/7/365.

Drive down any major interstate in the U.S., and you’ll see big blue signs decorated with business logos near most exits. Here’s who decides which businesses make it on the signs, and how much it all costs.

Called interstate logo signs or specific service signs, these ubiquitous big blue billboards are godsends to weary travelers searching for gas, food, or lodging close to the highway. Unsurprisingly, the signs aren’t solely there to help out motorists, as they also provide monetary benefit to businesses and, crucially, to the state.

Roadside advertising programs are administered by individual states, though specific service signs like the one in the picture above tend to be farmed out to contractors. One of the biggest of these contractors is a company called Interstate Logos, which works with transportation agencies in 23 states to not only install the huge blue panels, but also to work with businesses to run the programs.

This information comes from David Tracy and Jalopnik.com, with our thanks.

If you own a business that falls into one of these groups—attraction, pharmacy, camping, lodging, food and gas—and your business is located near a controlled-access state highway, then you’re eligible to get your company on the big blue sign.

But not everyone is eligible to display their firm’s logo; that’s because the state’s requirements are rather strict, specifying things like distance from the highway, operating hours, required amenities, and number of parking spots available.

For example, as shown in the image above, Michigan requires that any gas station on a specific service sign be within six miles of the highway, and be open at least 16 hours a day, seven days a week and 360 days a year. In addition, the gas station must offer water, gas, and oil for various types of vehicles, as well as public restrooms and a public telephone.

Requirements for food facilities are similarly specific, stating that facilities must operate continuously for 12 hours a day and six days per week. In addition, restaurants on the service signs must be within six miles of the highway, and offer 24 seats for patrons, a public bathroom, and a public telephone.

Other states are even stricter; Colorado specifies that restaurants must offer drinking water and be open continuously between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., and Kentucky limits restaurant and gas businesses to within three miles of a rural interchange or within only one mile of an urban interchange.

But even if your business meets all the requirements, and you’ve submitted your online application, there may be competition from other nearby businesses. As for which of those businesses get to be on the signs, that depends on the state’s policy. Colorado rotates the businesses at the end of each contract year, but other states like Michigan give preference to businesses nearer the highway, while still others like Washington use a first come-first serve (with waiting list) approach.

 Types Of Signs

Signs generally come in three different types: mainline, ramp and trailblazer. Mainline signs are the huge ones that motorists see on the main highway just before exits, ramp signs are found on either side of an exit ramp and usually feature an arrow and a distance to the destination, and trailblazer signs are found along the route when driving to a business from the exit ramp isn’t straightforward.

 The six main types of businesses found on logo signs—local attractions, pharmacies, camping, lodging, food, and gas—are often placed along the highway in that order (in other words, you’ll see the big blue “attractions” sign first and “gas” last), and are usually within one mile of the exit. They tend to feature a maximum of six logos.Cost

The cost of getting on a specific service sign varies by state, but in general, it spans between about $500 and a couple grand per year. For some states, the annual fee depends solely upon which kind of sign a business is renting, though other states base the annual fee on how much traffic that particular road sees (a sign along a more crowded road costs more).

Washington’s fees, for example, vary based on traffic and location. The example table on the Washington Department of Transportation site—shown above—displays annual costs between $360 and $910 for two signs (one in each direction).

Michigan charges a flat fee of $850 per mainline sign (this comes with a ramp sign as well), so advertising on both sides of the road—one sign for each direction—means businesses have to pay $1,700 each year to advertise on the highway.

Florida does things a bit differently, setting rates based on things like “population, traffic volume, market demand, and costs for annual permit fees.” In Florida, the maximum annual fee for a “sign location” in an urban area is $3,500, while $2,000 will get a business a sign in a rural area.

 Texas breaks up the cost of Mainline signs and small ramp signs, but also uses daily traffic count to determine cost. Mainline signs cost between $900 and $3,250 per year, and smaller ramp signs cost between $150 and $750 per year. Colorado’s fees are $750 per direction for a mainline, a ramp sign and a trailblazer.

These are just a few examples, but on average, it looks looks like if you want your business on a big blue highway sign, expect to shell out about a grand per direction.

There are, of course, other costs involved. Though individual states (or whoever the states have contracted to run the logos program) tend to provide the big blue back panels, businesses are tasked with designing the logo signs to meet the required specifications. This isn’t always cheap; Washington’s Department of Transportation gives some ballpark figures:

 Signs that are 24 inches by 12 inches cost between $84 and $530
  • Signs that are 36 inches by 12 inches cost between $160 and $530
  • Signs that are 60 inches by 36 inches cost between $330 and $530

Typical mainline logo signs are about 48 inches by 36 inches, so based on WSDOT’s ballpark figures, it’s probably safe to figure about $300 to $500 per sign.

Add the annual fee to the cost of making the sign, and any removal/change fees (usually around $100), or fees for additional trailblazer signs (typically about $50), and businesses in some areas could end up spending close to ten grand per year for the advertising for a pair of signs (though most businesses will likely end up spending just a couple of grand). If traffic is heavy enough, and the business is well-recognized among motorists, this could be worth it.

 The sites says that in 2010, Kentucky Logos—contracted by the Kentucky DOT—paid the state $618,904.91. That’s great for the state, but according to the report, of the businesses on the 1,568 signs in the state, only 1 to 2 percent leave annually. So it seems the businesses are happy, too.

 

Face to Face is #2 and E-mail is #1 – still all about two-way conversations

And the survey says… communication matters, and those two-way conversations whether by phone or via email are still the winners.  You can’t build a relationship, or tell a story, with one-way communications … so focus on the people you are trying to reach on the other end!

Email is holding its own in B2B sales despite minor slippage, according to State Of Inbound 2017, a global survey by HubSpot. Of 6,399 professionals surveyed in 141 countries, 86% prefer email for business communications — a loss of two percentage points from last year.

That drop doesn’t mean much when you consider the gap that follows, however: Face-to-face communication is a distant second, falling from 61% to 60% Phone communication comes in third, holding steady at 56%. And social media has fallen from 42% to 39%.

No wonder HubSpot concluded that “when it comes to communication channels, email is the clear winner.” It added that it had seen “slight decreases in people’s preference to communicate in nearly all channels.” The only one to grow was messenger apps — from 29% to 31%.

At the same time, email was rated the second-most effective channel for sales reps to connect with prospects, falling from 29% to 26%. The telephone, holding steady at 36%, was first. Facebook came in fourth, having risen from 9% to 12%. These results were consistent around the globe.

Communication methods depend on the person’s seniority. The telephone is the most popular way of reaching everyone from VP/director on down, with email second. For example, the phone was cited by 42% of respondents as the preferred way to reach managers, and email by 24%.

But email has parity at the C level — it was selected by 25%, compared to 26% who chose the phone.

The most daunting chore was getting a response from prospects (38%). That was followed by closing deals (35%), identifying good leads (30%) and engaging multiple decision makers at a company (27%). Connecting via phone was listed by 20%.

Of course, these findings are about tactical channel choices. Asked for their wider marketing priorities, 70% mentioned conversion of contacts and leads — nothing else even came close. Second was driving traffic to the Web site (53%), followed by increasing revenue from existing customers, at (43%).

Inbound practices produced the most high-quality leads, and outbound the least.

Overall, 61% of the respondents say their marketing is effective, while 39% say it isn’t. But it depends on the person’s rank. CEOs are most likely to feel that way (69%), and individuals/contributors are less so (55%). And while all regions are upbeat, North America is the most positive, while Asia is the least.

That said, these executives are moving into social media. Their marketing teams “will maintain or increase their presence on YouTube and Facebook video and focus on figuring out how to market on messaging apps such as WhatsApp,” HubSpot writes. “Snapchat is still a mystery for many businesses, and we see a dip in focus as marketers opt to spend their time on larger emerging channels.

Here are two more tidbits:

  • 44% claim that marketing and sales “are generally aligned.”
  • Salespeople are flummoxed when doing manual data entry – 23% say it’s their biggest hassle using their CRM tool.

What are these leaders’ sale priorities for the next 12 months? The answers were closing more deals (71%), improving the efficiency of the sale funnel (44%), social selling (29%), training the sales team (27%) and reducing the length of the sales cycle (26%).

But none of this will be easy. B2B marketers face these challenges:

  • Generating traffic and leads — 63%
  • Proving the ROI of our marketing activities — 40%
  • Securing enough budget — 28%
  • Identifying the right technologies — 26%
  • Managing our Web site — 26%
  • Targeting content for an international audience — 21%
  • Training our team — 19%
  • Hiring top talent — 16%
  • Finding an executive sponsor — 7%

Thanks, HubSpot. Let’s catch up again next year – originally published in Media Post, a commentary written by Ray Schultz, columnist.

Exceptional Role Models Make for Exceptional Careers

Christine Mau, named one of Ad Age’s “Women to Watch” and a former design director at Kimberly-Clark, says design must be brought into an organization’s full conversation, rather than considered an output.

American Marketing Association does an exceptional job of bringing us stories of people who we can learn from, emulate and follow.  A recent story in Marketing News gives insight into Christine Mau, read on!

Mau’s work has included the redesign of Kleenex boxes into oval and triangular formats, as well as the U by Kotex launch. The tampon brand presented its product in black and neon colors, a massive departure from the typical blue and white found in the feminine hygiene aisle.

This ability to talk about and design for what are sometimes considered taboo topics made her the prime candidate for co-creating the logo for No More, a movement for raising awareness and engagement around ending domestic violence and sexual assault.

The logo (pictured at right with Mau), which consists of a blue circle with a disappearing center—intended to evoke the concept of reducing the number of such experiences to zero—has been part of a global public service announcement effort that has received more than $2 billion in earned media.

https://www.ama.org/publications/eNewsletters/Marketing-News-Weekly/Pages/christine-mau-encourages-design-integration-in-marketing-process.aspx

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Do NOT Hire a Social Media Consultant Before You Ask These 10 Questions

What is a “Social Media Consultant”?  It could be anyone with a personal Facebook Page and a large number of Twitter followers wanting to sell you on their services.

I too often see someone touting this service (for far too high a cost) who have only a Twitter account or not much of a personal or business presence anywhere on the web.  And while these “consultants” might be available the question is are they right for you?  

You ONLY want someone who knows your industry 

and has the maturity to know what NOT to post too.

Once you make the decision to outsource, you’ll want to strongly vet potential consultants and/or agencies.

Here are 10 things Social Media Today recommends you ask or consider:

1. Can they demonstrate a proven track record?

Ask what brands the person or agency has worked with and is currently working with (to ensure they’re not working with a competing brand).

Don’t be shy about asking for references. Ask about a brand they worked with where something didn’t work out – how did they handle that? Were they able to quickly adapt and change course? Do they have the necessary experience in your industry to properly advance your business?

The more they know about your industry, the less of a learning curve there’ll be, and the more resources they’ll bring to your brand. What are their first steps when taking on new clients?

2. Where can I find current and past examples of your work?

Anyone with experience will be readily able to show you a portfolio of work as well as links to initiatives they’ve either run or been involved in creating.

Look for campaigns that have been repeated. You know things are working when you keep doing it.

Have the campaigns led to brand exposure? Sales leads? Will this experience help your market?

3. Who will be handling my account and what background does this person come from?

This is the biggest question – don’t buy into a sales pitch and then get a very junior person.

The background of each person working on behalf of your brand is important. If you’re looking for marketing, PR and/or social media help, you want people that have leveraged those skills working with prior companies.

Do these people have knowledge and experience with trends in these areas?

4. How will we track ROI?

We know that not everything has immediate return that’s trackable when it comes to social media. But you can track most things.

You want to know that this consultant or agency isn’t simply looking to add likes, followers or fans, but is actually able to analyze conversion rates.

Brands that hire an outside agency will want to know that the agency or consultant is consistently monitoring results, and is being held accountable. You’ll want to know there’s a standard monitoring and reporting process in place that works for both you and the agency or consultant.

5. What is their process for reporting?

How often will you meet with them? How often will you be provided status updates or check-ins?

If the agency doesn’t have a method to suggest immediately to you on how they’ll communicate, it might be a red flag that the agency isn’t as connected with their clients as you’ll want to be (or that they haven’t even thought of this yet).

6. What will you do if something goes wrong?

How would you handle a social media crisis? This is the question that will give you real insight into their value.

Marketing campaigns that look great on paper can go wrong in application, no matter how seasoned the consultant is.

How will they react? How do they respond to negative reviews? Tweets? Negative Facebook comments?

7. How do they come up with strategic plans?

How much does writing content figure into their experience and plan for your business? A good consultant will have a workflow that works for them and you.

They’ll know how to integrate social media with PR and traditional media.

They’ll want to talk to your sales team and find out what plans they have and will know how to integrate them into all they are doing.

8. How will content be developed?

And, will you have to approve all of the content written on behalf of your brand? Will it all have to be planned, or will you trust this person or agency to create on-the-fly content for you? Does this person have the experience necessary to understand the nuances of writing content specific for each platform?

Content developed for your brand needs to be likeable and shareable. A consultant or agency should be able to show you examples of previously created content for other clients, as well as their content calendar, or what their content creation process looks like.

9. What does success look like, and how will we measure it?

Brands that are investing in consultants and agencies must have clear goals in mind when starting this process. An agency should be able to help you achieve your KPIs. The consultant or agency you choose will help you establish these KPIs and will (with you) write strategies and tactics to hit those goals.

10. What will this cost?

Outside of the monthly retainer or fee you agree to with the consultant or agency, you want to know that your budget is being kept in mind in all they’re doing.

Thank you http://www.socialmediatoday.com – one of my favorite sources for all things social!

AI Is What’s Next – As Communicators We Are The Front Line

Do a quick Google search for AI and you get a new definition from WikiPedia:  Artificial intelligence is being defined as Intelligent Agents.  Let that sink in.

AI is becoming part of all businesses and part of nearly every part of our lives.  From the way your communications are answered to the way you get to work – everything is changing thanks to artificial intelligence.   Having just attended three different conferences for clients; one on real estate, one on travel and one on school nutrition – I can tell you all three had at least one seminar on how this technology is changing our world.  As one speaker said:  “Ten years ago we did not realize the impact of social media, AI is already here and moving into the marketplace at warp speed.”

As communicators we are the front line.  We need to embrace this technology, understand it deeply and be able to explain how it is impacting our companies and clients to others.

As machines become intelligent there will be great ethical debates and concerns – be ready as you will be needed to shape the conversation.

TED has an excellent playlist about AI – https://www.ted.com/topics/ai

         This New York Times piece offers a summary of where we are: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/14/magazine/the-great-ai-awakening.html

The post below came from AdAge, here is a direct link to the full article:  http://adage.com/article/agency-news/chief-ai-officer-big-title-media-agencies/309667/?ito=792

Any time an explosive new technology takes hold, agencies have to navigate how it fits into their business. While some may be waiting until it has taken a deeper hold, others, like New York-based Crossmedia, are bullish.

The independent media agency just hired a new executive director of cognitive solutions, who will head up the agency’s work in that area — covering everything from client projects that use AI like chatbots or Alexa skills to other areas of cognitive solutions. The field includes data-driven creative work that might change according to weather, stock fluctuations or time of day, and data science, which encompasses deep learning and pattern detection.

For Karim Sanjabi, who’s taking on the new role, it’s a step agencies are going to have to take. Sanjabi previously started Freestyle Interactive, which was acquired by Carat Interactive in 2003, and most recently was CEO of Robot Stampede, a creative tech company based in San Francisco.

“If agencies don’t make this kind of change right now, and really understand they have to really commit to it, we’re going to have an evolutionary separation,” he said. “We’re going to have two different species of agencies: One that evolved with AI and one that didn’t.”

He said snubbing AI would be akin to an agency turning its back on social media 10 years ago.

Though Sanjabi has taken the top seat at Crossmedia’s new cognitive consulting practice, he wants to handle it in a way where the work bleeds across the entire agency, instead of siloing AI off into a separate business unit. His mandate, he said, is to help the agency sift through the tech options and find ways to improve internal operations and client solutions using these new concepts.

“I want our existing media buyers and planners, I want everyone in the company to think in terms of cognitive solutions,” he said.

“I just want to be a resource to everyone in the agency to help empower them to come up with this kind of stuff. This isn’t a standalone, separate thing — this is the core of the agency. We’re changing the way everyone thinks about this.”

Champions over chiefs
As the possibilities of AI are becoming known, agencies are grappling with the best way to bring in that knowledge.

“The power of this stuff is such that it surpasses traditional agency shiny object syndrome,” said Dave Meeker, a VP who focuses on innovation at Dentsu Aegis Network-owned digital marketing agency Isobar. “We see really the capabilities of what a well-trained or well-designed AI is capable of.”

Isobar doesn’t have a head of AI, but does rely on employees’ expertise to understand how it can help the business until it’s more deeply ingrained. Meeker said employees work on the forefront of new technologies, and once it really catches on, the company starts more formalized training across all employees. The company has an “Isobar Academy,” an online curriculum available to its 6,000 employees.

“Right now, we’re in this age of understanding this stuff. You need people with really specific domain expertise,” he said. “In time, that expertise becomes cooked into a lot of the software and things that we’re doing, to where it’s not like you then have to have an AI person because all of us kind of have the tools at our disposal that do that.”

Whatever the approach, the key to success, say agency vets, is incorporating the new technology in ways that everyone across the agency can master it. Which in turn could ultimately render the need for a chief of AI obsolete.

Tom Kelshaw, director of innovation at GroupM shop Maxus, said agencies have a history of hiring executives to head up areas like data, digital or innovation. The risk there, he said, is that “it tends to become stale.” Kelshaw pointed out that transformational new ideas should be absorbed across all leadership once a topic is understood, instead of letting it live with a sole executive or business unit.

At Maxus, Kelshaw said when it comes to AI and innovation more generally, his company relies on employees to figure out where tools and techniques can deliver operational efficiencies and improve clients’ business.

“It’s about getting champions, rather than chiefs, into the business,” he said.

Too soon?
Some agencies may feel it’s on the early side to make big investments into this area. Though digital agency PMG does a fair amount of work using AI, the agency doesn’t have any defined titles relating to cognitive or machine learning or artificial intelligence.

“Advertisers and brands realize the need for artificial intelligence, but very few are at the point where they’re going to the board and saying, ‘We’re betting everything on artificial intelligence,’ said Dustin Engel, head of analytics and data activation at PMG. “They know the risk of not being part of AI, but they’re not quite willing to bet the farm on that risk.”

He said factors like data quality make some areas of AI still relatively immature. PMG does work with clients on data onboarding, cleansing and standardizing so it will one day be useful in AI applications. It also uses AI when it come to data science and data innovation.

Engel added that AI appears to be polarizing with advertisers.

“Some are excited about it but don’t have clear use cases. Some are skeptical of the hype of AI being the business disruption panacea. Some are cautiously optimistic — stressing cautiously. So it may be early for advertisers as opposed to the agencies,” he wrote in an email. “As for PMG, we not only see AI possibilities in our client media programs but also in managing the operational complexity of our fast-growing business.”

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