Storytelling as a Marketing Tool

With so many online voices, it is important that brands find imaginative ways to connect with their customers. Creative storytelling allows brands the opportunity to take consumers on a visual journey.

How is storytelling evolving in this age of technology? To answer this question, I invited Julie Livingston to share insight during New York Women In Communications May 31, 2016, Twitter chat. As President of Livingston, PR, Julie advises clients on how to effectively use storytelling as a PR strategy.

Storytelling as a marketing tool

  • Social media and content marketing provide perfect platform to tell stories as part of brand marketing.
  • Stories contribute to a brand’s persona, a powerful mechanism for connecting with consumers.
  • Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to breathe life into your brand.
  • Storytelling helps to differentiate your brand from the competition.
  • Consumers form a personal connection with your brand thru stories that are authentic, creative and inspirational.
  • New social media platforms are influencing brand storytelling such as snapchat.

Changes that Impact Storytelling

  • Because of social media, attention spans are shorter. Stories must be brief, yet compelling.
  • Audiences have become more fragmented, specialized. Stories that appeal to Millennials may not to Boomers.
  • The advent of mobile has also influenced brand storytelling. Must be brief and highly visual.
  • Real-time storytelling is on the rise. Snapchat is a great example of real-time storytelling.
  • The brand’s audience demographic will often dictate the kind of ‪#storytelling theme.

Examples of Great Brand Storytelling

  • @Progressive has done remarkably well through ‘Flo,’ a character created to tell its brand story.
  • @KennethCole used his fashion brand’s advertising to raise awareness of various social causes through powerful storytelling.
  • @TOMSshoes helped pioneer a type of disruptive storytelling.
  • @warbyparker has used storytelling to make consumers care about buying eyeglasses and helping others.

User-Generated Content

  • Brands are shifting gears from content creation to content curation and getting their fans to contribute.
  • User-generated content (UGC) can come in the form of Instagram photos, Facebook posts, Snapchat,Twitpics and more.
  • Sometimes, user-generated content is requested by a brand in exchange for a contest entry.

Popular Storytelling Platforms

  • Mobile technology and pervasive use of smart phones has contributed to the state of marketing and storytelling.
  • Think Snapchats, Vines, YouTube videos, influencers, long/short-form content.
  • Social media distribution and even made-for-TV content is evolving, changing the face of storytelling. Great example of this would be @Dicks film, “We Could Be King.” They won an Emmy in 2015 for its effective storytelling.

Brands have a story to tell and every effort should be made to identify what best resonates with consumers. Julie’s final thoughts on storytelling: “I think great brands actually tell the story of the customer getting what they want within their own brand story.”

This post originally appeared on NYWICI.org.

Trends In Social Marketing

Trends in social media continue to evolve and new platforms are popping up everywhere. With more than two billion people using the Internet and this number growing by the day, it is difficult to fathom how to keep so many people engaged. Social networking users alone spend an average of 3.2 hours per day online. Vast technological developments require that marketers develop a strategic approach to social marketing to take full advantage of the opportunity to connect with their audience.

shutterstock_71532052As stated in previous blog posts, I coordinate and moderate bi-weekly Twitter chats for New York Women In Communications (NYWICI). During a recent Twitter chat, Rules of Social Marketing, we were fortunate to have Sheryl Victor Levy as cohost. For the past five years, Sheryl has been leading digital strategy and solutions for PHIL & Co., a full-service marketing communications agency in Manhattan. Sheryl also is the founder of Savvy Strategy, a digital coaching and marketing consultancy, working with individuals and clients in the entertainment, licensing and non-profit space.

Sheryl shared the following useful tips for social marketers:

What are the benefits of social media marketing?

  • Real-time brand extension, crowdsourcing brand perception, building loyalty and deepening customer relationships.

What is the best social strategy approach?

  • Know that there’s no one size fits all.
  • Develop a strategy based on business goals, consumer/audiences, communication goals and resources.
  • Research competitors and brands that are doing it right.
  • Survey your community: What do they want? What will they respond to? How do they want info delivered?

What are the top three habits of successful social media marketers?

  • Listen, strategize and optimize

What are some tips to create an affective social media marketing campaign?

  • Definitely know your audience. Do a lot of listening. Develop a persona and know their wants and needs.
  • Be genuine and transparent. Consumers can see through brands! Match your tone to your product.
  • Craft content that is searchable, shareable and relevant.
  • Use hashtags so your audience can find you

How can you determine which social platform is right for your business?

  • Platforms must match your audience and objectives. Facebook for example, is the broadest, yet doesn’t work for Millennials.
  • Twitter is great for leveraging trending topics. Instagram is better for visual representation and reaching Millennials.
  • Pinterest, Snapchat, Vine, YouTube all have a value and should be used strategically.

What does the future of social marketing look like?

  • Multicultural, niche, commerce, personalized, mobile and offering a seamless brand experience

Social marketing is affective, and with billions of Internet users, it is advantageous to meet consumers where they are engaging. “We live in a “multicultural world,” states Sheryl, and she suggests, “Marketers broaden their reach. Video, images and graphics lead the way in digital trends. People are becoming more visual. The proof is Facebook acquiring Instagram.”

This post originally appeared on New York Women In Communications Aloud blog.

A Digital Marketing Guide for Start-ups and Small Business

If you’re a start-up or a small business and don’t think you have an adequate budget for an effective marketing campaign, think again. If you have a computer and Internet access, that’s enough to get you started on the right track.

AAWoman_laptopA strong social media strategy, if applied correctly, can actually help your brand go viral. Below are some practical tips for an effective Internet campaign for your small business:

  1. If you don’t have a Facebook page for your business, create one now. Businesses can build relationships and connect with clients directly.
  2. Open a Twitter account and connect with clients and “experts” in your field to build your network.
  3. Launch a Twitter chat party introducing your brand. Schedule weekly twitter chats and brand yourself as an “expert” in your field. This will give you the opportunity to create a platform where you can share your knowledge all the while bringing awareness to your brand.
  4. Create a You Tube channel. Identify a spokesperson for your channel, and a producer and editor, then develop your content. Create fresh, consistent content.
  5. Design and implement an e-newsletter. Constant Contact provides you with free and low-cost tools to design a professional looking document in minutes. Use the e-newsletter to build your database, strengthen relationships and promote your brand. Share coupons and updates about products and services provided by your company.
  6. Create a blog. Make it interactive and include video as much as possible. Engaging your customers is critical to building relationships. Use the blog to talk with your clients, share company insight. Maybe you recently launched a new product that faced challenges in its development stages – write about it.  Draw the reader in by sharing a personal story associated with a product or service you offer. People love transparency – be honest and draw people in by your story.
  7. Purchase a domain name. Domain names can be purchased inexpensively. Even if you don’t have the budget to create a website, it’s ok. Link your domain name to your blog until you’re ready to invest in a website. Also, purchase a few email addresses @yourdomainname.com. Doing so helps establish credibility to your business or start-up.

As you build your brand, always remember to apply these simple steps at every stage of your business:

  • Build Relationships
  • Fresh Content
  • Share Your Knowledge
  • Image is Everything
  • Connect with Clients/Customers
  • Be Transparent

When identifying the right social network for your business, consider the following:

  • Research the social networks that will work best for building your brand
  • Understand the needs of your target audience
  • Make connections and talk to people
  • Share your goals and identify supporters
  • Measure results

There are so many free and low-cost tools available to you. Use these tools to your advantage. Don’t wait for that million-dollar check to come in the mail. Just go with what you have and work it!

This post originally appeared on the New York Women In Communications blog, Aloud.

Digital Overload: Unplug, Relax and Rejuvenate

In the July/August 2013 issue of Fast Company, social media influencer and author Baratunde Thurston wrote about his twenty-five day digital hiatus from email and social media. As a matter of fact, Twitter activity around the hashtag #Unplug is often a trending topic and many users are actually declaring that they too will #unplug from social media.

ImageThere is no doubt that the use of technology has increased over the past several years. I must admit, Twitter and Gmail monopolize most of my time on the Internet; therefore, it was no surprise when I stumbled upon one article that shared some of the detailed statistics for how people use the “Top Social Media, Apps & Services.” And while I had a pretty good idea of how popular social media had become over the years, the use of some of the following social media sites surprised me – especially My Space.

  • Evernote: 60 million users
  • Facebook: 1.15 billion users
  • Foursquare: 33 million users
  • Gmail: 425 million users
  • Instagram: 130 million users
  • LinkedIn: 238 milion users
  • MySpace: 32.6 million users
  • Pinterest: 70 million users
  • Twitter: 500 million users (200 million active)

With statistics such as these, it is safe to say that people spend a large part of their day on the Internet. There is a popular saying; “moderation in all things,” which simply implies that people should not do or have too much of anything. I ask the question – can people have too much of social media? It’s easy to get caught up in social media, as well as useful apps and services that seem to make our lives easier? Sites such as Skype and MeetUp allow us to connect with others; iTunes, Pandora and Spotify bring us all of the latest music. And then of course there are the social networks such as Twitter and Facebook that keep us up-to-date on all that is going on around the world almost every minute of the day. As much as I consider myself a “geekess,” I believe it is important that we “unplug” from social media a few hours a day including weekends.

Sometimes people justify the excessive use of social media with the argument that it keeps them connected with family and friends and also allows us the opportunity to meet new people. While that may be true, we can actually do this offline. It is good to take a break from technology to rejuvenate, refresh and relax our mind.  Can you recall the feeling you have when you get home from a long work-day and finally get the chance to sit and unwind?  We can actually experience that same feeling of relaxation when we “unplug” from the Internet and detox from all of the techology we encountered throughout the day. Below are some suggestions on how to “unplug.”

  • In the morning before work or school, use that time to reflect on the day’s tasks
  • During lunch break, instead of grabbing our cell phone to check Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, use that hour to rejuvenate and relax our mind. This will help us feel refreshed and recharged
  • During morning or evening commute to and from work, leave our mobile device in the bag. Enjoy the surroundings and do some sightseeing as we walk to our destination
  • Don’t check mail or text messages while having dinner with family and friends. Give them all of our attention; the texts and email will be there when we’re done.
  • Unplug on the weekends (at least one day). Schedule time for yourself to do an activity that brings you joy.
  • Encourage your kids to do the same.

Fast Company’s Unplug edition gives a nine-point digital detox checklist that you also might find useful. If we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves staring at our computer screens and mobile devices morning, noon and night with no separation from work or play.  Well, it’s time for me to unplug for a few hours.

This post originally appeared on the New York Women In Communications blog, Aloud.

 

Social Media for Small Business

If you’re a start-up or a small business and think you don’t have an adequate budget to effectively market your business, think again. If you have a computer and Internet access, that’s enough to get you started on the right track. For starters, develop a practical approach towards creating a social media strategy for your business.

According to the 2012 Social Media Marketing Report, 83% of marketers indicate that social media is important for their business. Use social media to meet and connect with customer; however,  you must have a plan. Don’t go out in the deep waters of social media without having a plan. If you go out in the deep waters without knowing how to swim – you will drown.

Below are a few steps to get you started:

  1. Identify your audience
  2. Know the wants/needs of your audience
  3. Follow and connect with them
  4. Listen, listen and listen some more
  5. Respond in a timely manner
  6. Introduce yourself
  7. Engage!
  8. Be social
  9. Offer up fresh content
  10. Acknowledge them
  11. Give away something… FREE
  12. Know your value
  13. Be authentic
  14. Share information
  15. Follow-up

Here are some valuable tips that will help you interact with your audience: 

  1. If you don’t have a Facebook page for your business, create one now. Update often, be consistent, and post fresh content. Offer contests; free give-away items or services.
  2. Open a Twitter account and connect with clients and “experts” in your field to build your network. Join the conversation on Twitter, participate in Twitter chats and become part of the community.
  3. Join the LinkedIn community. LinkedIn allows you to establish your brand and create trust around your business. It’s great for professional networking. Create trusting relationships with people; which might translate into lasting business relationships. Create groups, initiate topics and conversations. Establish yourself as the expert in your field.
  4. Launch a Twitter chat party introducing your brand. Schedule weekly twitter chats and brand yourself as an “expert” in your field. This will give you the opportunity to create a forum where you can share your knowledge all the while bringing awareness to your brand.
  5. Create a YouTube channel. Identify a spokesperson for your channel, producer and editor, then develop your content. Create fresh, consistent content. Digital video usage will triple in the next year. Use your channel to feature your services/products. It will personalize the experience.
  6. Design and implement an e-Newsletter. Use the e-Newsletter to build your database, strengthen relationships and promote your brand. Share coupons and updates about products and services provided by your company.
  7. Create a blog. Make it interactive and include video as much as possible. Engaging your customers is critical to building relationships. Use the blog to talk with your clients, share company insight. For example… Your company might have launched a new product that faced challenges in its development stages – write about it. Draw the reader in by sharing a personal story associated with a product or service you offer. People love transparency – be honest and draw people in by your story.
  8. Purchase a domain name. Domain names may be purchased at a very low-cost. Even if you don’t have the budget to create a website, it’s ok. Link your domain name to your blog until you’re ready to invest in a website. Also, purchase a few email addresses @yourdomainname.com. Doing so helps establish credibility to your business or start-up. Offer up quality content.
  9. Create a Google+ page. Google+ is an excellent way to connect with others who share similar interests, as well as meet potential clients. It’s a good marketing platform that brings awareness to your brand and drives traffic to your website. It allows for personable interaction and it its +1 feature gives users a simple way to promote your content.

As you build your brand, always remember to apply these simple steps at every stage of your business:

  • Build Relationships
  • Fresh Content
  • Share Your Knowledge
  • Image is Everything
  • Connect with Clients/Customers
  • Be Transparent

There are so many free and low-cost tools available to you. Use these tools to your advantage. Don’t wait for that million-dollar check to come in the mail. Just go with what you have and work it!!

Don’t Ignore the “Social” in Networking

The growth of the social network industry has changed the way users interact online. Users of sites like My Space, You Tube and even Facebook at one time, were very narcissistic with its approach to interaction. Everything was about “me,” “my” and “I.” Over the years there has been a shift and individuals and companies alike are taking advantage of the relationship building aspect of social networking sites.

The term “networking” itself is understood as an opportunity to connect, share information and cultivate productive relationships. This is exactly what is expected of users of social networks. Too much self-promotion on many social networks is frowned upon; however, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it. For example, if you’re attending a networking event and all you do is talk about yourself to everyone you see, you will find yourself quite alone and likely to not have established a beneficial connection. Same with social networks, be strategic on how and when you self-promote. Use your tagline, bio and about me to brand yourself as the “expert” in your field. Enhance it with a blog that really gives readers a deeper understanding of who you are, your area of expertise, thought cycle and areas of interest. Make the connection on the social networks, direct a tweet or post to the person(s) you’d like to meet, join the conversation in topics of interest or answer a question.

Remember, the key to networking is to connect, share information and cultivate productive relationships. Once you’ve made the connection and made some time investment in cultivating relationships, leverage the relationship in a way that is beneficial to both parties. Below are some tips on how to use a few social networking sites to grow your network:

  1. Join Quora: Quora is a great site that is moderated by a community a users. It is essentially a Q&A site that connects you to a wealth of information.
  2. Participate in Twitter chats: Twitter chats are a great source of information and a wonderful networking opportunity.  Twitter chats cover a wide array of topics and it’s a great opportunity to connect, share information and learn something new.
  3. Schedule a Twitter Meet-up: Once you’ve identified a network of people with similar interests, schedule a meet-up. Plan an “offline” meeting to answer questions, share information and tweet about it.
  4. Google + Hangouts: Let’s you “hangout” with friends, colleagues online and group chat. You can create a “hangout” around a specific topic and invite others to join in.
  5. Facebook: The new Facebook timeline for brands is a great opportunity to engage your network. Take advantage of Timeline’s cover area to showcase images of your clients, fans and highlight company products. Imagine creating a contest where the winner would be “featured” on your timeline. Be creative with your new FB Timeline and use it as a networking opportunity.
  6. LinkedIn: Join groups on LinkedIn, post comments and share information pertaining to your area of expertise.

Take advantage of the networking opportunities available to you via social networks. When people appear in your Twitter timeline, say hello, wish them a great day, or offer a word of encouragement or inspiration. It’s all about networking and engagement. If someone shares a personal or professional achievement on his or her Facebook wall, share a comment. “Like” is good, but take an additional minute to share congratulatory words.  Don’t overlook the “social” in network. Be social, connect, share information and cultivate relationships.

Happy Social Networking!

Social Media to Make a Difference

On Saturday, I read a great post “Social Media for Social Good” by Helen Nowicka. The timing of Nowicka’s post was perfect, especially since for the past week celebrities, activists and others have used social networks to express outrage and their dissatisfaction with how the  Trayvon Martin case is being handled by Florida police. Social Media also played an important role in bringing awareness to the execution of Troy Davis, as well as tragedies of Hurricane Katrina, Tsunami and other natural disasters. Organizations such as Planned Parenthood used Social Media to bring awareness to Susan G. Komen’s decision to pull funding from their organization; which ultimately led to the reversal of the decision. At least 5 officials resigned from Susan G. Komen following the controversy.

These are just a few examples in which Social Media may be used to draw attention to a specific topic or issue. Whenever I teach about Social Media, I tend to share how social media has allowed the “narcissistic” side of us shine through. That is not necessarily a negative thing; however, as users of Social Media, we’re inclined to share everything about “me.” Things like our location, photos, accomplishments, dating status, our mood at the moment, our likes, dislikes and so forth. That’s all well and good, but there should come a time when Social Media is used to encourage, positively impact and support the work of others. A single tweet or post on social networks has the potential to reach millions. So why not use it as an opportunity to make a difference.

Social media is an effective resource to share a message, engage others in conversation and connect with people throughout the world. Everyone has the potential to have an impact on the world and make a difference. Are you passionate about a cause or group? Take advantage of Social Media’s reach potential and state your cause. Here are some suggestions:

  • Donate at least 1 tweet a day or Facebook post to your favorite cause.
  • Share a link to a foundation or organization that is making a difference.
  • Connect with individuals and organizations who are making a difference worldwide.
  • Volunteer with organizations such as iMentor, a mentoring model that uses technology-enabled mentoring.

There are several Social Media for Social Good websites that were created to enable people to support causes they’re passionate about. If you’re currently using Social Media to make a difference and support a cause, we’d love to hear about it.

Use Social Media Media to Make a Difference.