An introduction to employed advocacy

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First published on www.mediaupdate.co.za in November 2015

What your employees think about your company, its products and services offerings, matters. Through their personal social media accounts, employees have the power to grow and define your brand. But they’re not going to do it by default.

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By Remy Raitt

You have to earn their advocacy, something forward-thinking businesses are realising is well worth the effort.

Generally referred to as ‘employed advocacy’ or ‘employed media’, this type of online content marketing has been acknowledged as the fourth type of media, joining bought, owned and earned media, as a credible way to grow your reach.

In a downloadable eBook, strategic communications agency Cerebra, write that employed media is the term used to describe the “collective of socially connected people who work for your company”. Cerebra are encouraging businesses to put their employees at the front line and allow them to use their online reach, influence and credibility to spread brand messages.

How it works

It’s not as easy as ordering your employees to punt your product online. In fact, as Cerebra MD Craig Rodney says, for employee advocacy to work at all, it has to be authentic. This means you have to identify potential employees, then incentivise them to join your advocacy programme.

Head of strategy at Student Village, Duncan Collins, says this identification process is vital. “Your employees represent demographics your company might not.” It’s about finding the people who have reach that would realistically benefit your company.

Where to begin

Rodney says the easiest place to start is encouraging employees to hand over their social media usernames so that you can look into them online to ensure they’ll make effective advocates. Once they’ve checked out okay, it’s about encouraging them to get on board. “You can’t force your employees but you can provide incentives,” says Rodney. These incentives can range from extra leave days to a bar of chocolate; it’s totally dependent on the company.

Another crucial part of your employed advocacy programme is to ensure your employees are sharing content that’s relevant to their own interests, and consequently those of their social media connections. Collins and Rodney agree that the easiest way to do this is by getting employees to share their own work and accomplishments.

When it comes to work they may not have produced, Rodney suggests getting those involved in your programme to pick areas of interest, and building a points system around the idea that they will only receive credit when they share posts that fall within the scope of their chosen subjects.

How to manage it

There’s no denying that putting your brand into the hands of your employees can be chancy. “You do run the risk of your employees representing your company in a way that’s not true to its core values,” says Collins. But Rodney says this can be effectively minimised and even vanquished by ensuring everyone is always up-to-date on what is and isn’t acceptable.

Then it’s about tracking the success. In a guide on employed advocacy, Link Humans say this can be achieved by simply setting KPIs. “These KPIs will tell you whether you’re achieving your goals, and how well you’re doing. KPIs aren’t just any metrics – these are key metrics you’ll rely on to tell you how your plan is performing.”

Rodney agrees; “You need to track employee behaviour. People might think this is a bit big brother-y, but it’s all public information. It’s not about curtailment, it’s about understanding and informing.”

And once the programme works its way into the core of how your business communicates, employed media will become a tenant of your hiring policy says Collins, thus ensuring as many employees as possible become advocates and spread genuine brand messages.

Does or would your company utilise employed advocacy? Tell us why below.

 

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Scheduled posts: yay or nay?

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First published on www.mediaupdate.co.za in October 2015

If you think all social media managers do is post on social media platforms, you are wrong. Posting is however a big slice of their workload, and the ability to schedule their posts beforehand can lighten their rapidly growing workloads. There’s no doubt that scheduling saves time, but does it impact the quality of your posts?

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By Remy Raitt

Scheduling your social media posts has a lot of benefits; it enables you to reach audience members in different time zones and to nail your content to a specific time period, even when you’re not available. On the downside it can squash online spontaneity and real-time personal interactions.

Picking a platform

The first step towards scheduling is choosing which platform you want to work from. Every social media manager has their preferences, which will directly reflect the kind of content they post and the brand they are representing.

Media Update
’s own social media maven, Cassy van Eeden, says TweetDeck is her go-to for Twitterposts while Facebook’s very own scheduling option is what she uses when she shares to that network.

She says although TweetDeck may not be the most sophisticated platform, it is reliable. “Your tweets always go live exactly the way that you scheduled them, your pictures pull through and your links are perfect,” she says.

Van Eeden says scheduling on Facebook works best for her, as the social network is constantly evolving, often too quickly for other scheduling platforms to keep up. “Newsfeeds and timelines look different every second day due to updated algorithms and new settings,” she says. “I have found that scheduling platforms rarely adapt quick enough – if at all – to accommodate these changes.”

Bonolo Modise, the social media manager at McCann Worldgroup South Africa, is a Sprout Social devotee. She uses the platform to schedule both her Facebook and Twitter posts.

And in the opposite corner, stands One Africa Television’s online media and convergence manager, Alna Dall, who prefers not to schedule posts. “At first I tried various social media management and scheduling applications, but they all fell short of producing a ‘quality experience’. The options I used were open-source, so customisation was limited. I tried TweetDeck, Bitly and IFTTT in the past – but they failed to give me the options I felt was needed for our branding portfolio.”

Dall says the only app she has full confidence in is the YouTube RSS feed publishing tool. She says she’s impressed by YouTube’s number of customisable WordPress plugins which have useful analytics and scheduling tools.

The upside

“Being able to schedule posts ahead of time is a massive help when it comes to productivity,” says Van Eeden. “Social media runs constantly, 24/7. As a result, people who are responsible for social media management might find themselves on Facebook and Twitter every five minutes trying to keep up and stay relevant. If you have other responsibilities then this is a huge issue when it comes to time management.”

Modise agrees, adding; “It helps with keeping track of the content that has been approved by clients.” Also, she says it can save you in instances where you forget to post. “You’d be surprised by how easy it is to forget to post content on a day-to-day basis,” she says. “Especially because days can be so fast paced that posting slips your mind. So it gives me peace of mind to have the ability to schedule everything that’s important and I rest easy knowing that I’m not going to miss anything.”

And while Van Eeden says scheduling enables social media managers to set aside a specific amount of time each day to sit and focus solely on posting, and then move on to the next thing, this does not mean that you can simply schedule posts for the day and not log on again.

And the downside

Dall says in her experience scheduled posts suck out the personalisation of your social media posts and make it harder to keep track of individual comments. She says although it might work wonders for other companies, in her capacity it doesn’t. “I have found that scheduling for Facebook is always a nightmare,” she says. “I reach a far greater audience if I can adjust one post for several different pages. Being a television station, we upload our news stories to YouTube and I share it on various external platforms and pages, which is not always possible with scheduling applications.”

Van Eeden adds; “Scheduling posts does mean that you have little room for spontaneity, and more importantly, it limits your involvement in relevant conversations. Which is why I always stress that you can’t simply schedule posts for the day and then neglect social media for the rest of the day. That’s how you miss out on conversations that are relevant to your industry.”

Are you a social media manager? Do you schedule your posts? Why?

Brainstorming, but better

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First published on www.mediaupdate.co.za in October 2015

The internet disintegrates borders, it makes ideas global and it gives brands the chance to acquire and monetise insights from people who aren’t necessarily a part of the organisation. All these possibilities are labelled as co-creation; the involvement of a wide community of people in the ideation phase of new ventures. 
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By Remy Raitt

“Co-creation in the digital space plays not just a vital role, but it’s the essence of everything we do on a daily basis,” says Conrad David, the founder and CEO of Hashtag South Africa. “We’re able to engage with individuals that have skills, borderless of any country.”

Finding your meeting point

In Hashtag South Africa’s case, David says they enlist the help of people from around the world. “In order for brands and companies to garner co-creation online they would need to first have a common ground. They would need to find a place to meet in a central location and that can be done utilising community social platforms, simple emails or getting people together in the same room in their countries and then united on a central online platform,” says David.

He says at Hashtag South Africa they have created their own cloud interface, merging Google Apps for business with Facebook API’s and Twitter Bootstrap. “This system allows us to communicate within different time zones and sends messages off in triggers. We have a global time clock that works as a trigger so deadlines are effective in each city of our operation.”

Reaching outside your organisation

Co-creation also allows customers to get involved. At Digital Edge Live, chief scientist of the global social giant Lithium Technologies, Dr Michael Wu explained the opportunities this offers. “Conversations happen on social media but people still just approach it by acquiring and then monetising. Digital acquisition is strange, you can’t keep what you acquire,” he says. According to Wu, if you want to sustain monetisation you need to engage.

“Enlistment helps you scale acquisitions and gives leverage for your customers to do the work for you,” he says. “You need to acquire, engage, monetise, and enlist all at the same time or it won’t work.” Wu believes that the most compelling stories are brand narratives co-created with your customers.

David cites Knorr’s What’s For Dinner? campaign as a good local example of this. While promoting their own recipes (and product)  online, they gather Knorr recipes from their followers too. These are then collected and compiled into a cookbook which is sold at Pick ‘n Pays across the country. He says this provides motivation for followers to get involved, plus generates revenue for the brand.

What it offers

In an article for Vision Critical, Stephen Benson says collaborating with customers offers many benefits including; increased innovation capacity, increased innovation velocity, reduced innovation risk, increased flow of quality ideas and concepts into the development pipeline, and accelerated time to market new products and services.

“It offers brands and companies a global perspective and offers an opportunity; you no longer have to create products and services based on your location,” says David. “You can now tap into the greatest minds that live on planet Earth today, rather than read about them in years to come, and they’re accessible by searching for them simply on the internet or by tweeting them.”

“Co-creation allows your perspective conclusion to change. So, when you have a think tank on a specific agenda or a brief, by opening it up to people in different parts of the world, but staying in the same interest group, you’ll be able to have more than just a 360 perspective; it kind of 3D-fies the object that you’re looking at,” David concludes.

Co-creation has the ability to allow ideas to come alive, and gives brands the chance to tap into information sources that were previously not considered or reachable. All you have to do is get online.

How do you think co-creation will affect marketing and brand building in years to come? Tell us below.

 

Locked, loaded and LinkedIn

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First published on www.mediaupdate.co.za in August 2015

LinkedIn is the Facebook of business. It’s the social platform that let’s professionals network online. And if you don’t have a profile, you’re missing out on massive personal and business growth opportunities.

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By Remy Raitt

The team from Ad Talent Recruitment Specialists say any professional entity that wants an online presence should have aLinkedIn profile. “A LinkedIn profile serves as a representation of your CV online. It gives people an understanding of your experience and expertise and enables them to find out professional information about you that could aid them in working with you.”

Speaker and author, James Hurford of the Company Doctor agrees, adding that they’re integral because “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”.

Unique offerings

LinkedIn provides what other social networks cannot. “LinkedIn offers people a professional platform and network to share information from a professional perspective,” says the Ad Talent Team. “[I]t offers specific sales lead generation and recruitment tools. It is not only opening up opportunities for you to be recognised and headhunted but also where you connect and engage.”

LinkedIn
connects you to people and peers who may not necessarily know you in person. Hurford says it offers trust, credibility and influence. ‘’It’s an easy, credible way to promote yourself, share information and build your network,” he says.

Peter Daisyme in an article for Search Engine Journal says it offers more than self-promotion. “When you connect with other professionals in your field, you’re gaining more knowledge and insight since you’re interacting with colleagues,” he says.

Who’s looking?

LinkedIn informs you when someone has been peeping your profile through a notification email, and the variety of people who may come across you online is astounding. The Ad Talent team says anyone from a company to a talent scout, an industry peer or a recruitment consultant might be checking you out on LinkedIn.

Perfecting your profile

That means you can’t afford to have a poor profile. The Ad Talent team, Hurford and Daisyme all agree a clear, professional photograph is essential. Accurate, up to date information is also important. The Ad Talent team also advise to; have a clear sense of purpose and direction; keep it professional; get personal recommendations; ensure you use correct dates and ensure there are no spelling errors. “Do not miss out any information but try to be concise,” they suggest. “This should serve as a record, not unlike a CV, of experience and information about different roles.”

Hurford says a great profile has impact. He believes a strong headline, an interesting short summary, your full background information, work samples, articles and publications all work together to deliver a professional punch.

Show don’t tell

Hurford uses LinkedIn to publish opinion and thought pieces on his industry. These efforts afford him numerous benefits. He says articles, if done well, “position you as an authority and expert in your field”. “It increases your connections, promotes your brand and helps market your products or services.” When it comes to writing articles he suggests sticking to what you know. “Don’t write about things you’ve never had experience with. People will see straight through you and you’ll lose all credibility,” he advises.

Be present and progress

“In the ever-changing marketing climate, LinkedIn can be used as a tool to gather relevant information about the industry and network with people within the same industry which could be beneficial for many things, for example, career progression,” says the Ad Talent team. Therefore your LinkedInprofile should always be up-to-date and reflect your own professional goals.

Regularly interacting on the platform will also ensure opportunities are not missed.

Do you have a LinkedIn account? How has your presence on the platform worked for you?

 

The art of Instagram

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First published on www.mediaupdate.co.za in August 2015

Instagram is the fastest growing social media platform in South Africa, and if your brand isn’t uploading, filtering and hash tagging on the regular, you’re missing out on making connections and possible business opportunities.

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By Remy Raitt

Like any other social network, there’s an art to Instagram. Plus it offers what other channels can’t. Social media manager ofSuperbalist, Xand Venturas says it’s most redeeming quality is that it offers focus. “It’s an incredibly direct channel that allows a brand to show rather than explain what it’s about,” says Venturas. “There’s much less noise on Instagram than on Twitter or on Facebook. You can be fairly certain that your Instagram will be viewed by your audience, whereas there’s no guarantee that your content will be seen on Twitter or Facebook unless you’re paying.”

Twenty3 Media posted an article praising brands that understand the value of Instagram and have snuggly incorporated it into their marketing strategies. Citing a report that states 92% of luxury brands who post an average of 5.5 times a week saw an increase in their customer base, they say the proof is in the Instagram post.

Keep it personal

And it’s not just big brands. Instagram can also assist in growing your personal brand. Johannesburg-based blogger Angie Durrant, uses Instagram to promote posts on her array of popular blogs.

Venturas says that Instagram shouldn’t be viewed or used by brands in a dissimilar ways it’s used by individuals. “The main goal for brands on social media should be establishing an authentic voice that their audience can identify with,” he says. “That often means trying to sound more like a ‘human’ and less like a brand. Obviously, because brands are usually selling things, that’ll impact the things that are posted and how they’re posted, but the language and imagery used are not dissimilar from individual to brand.”

Durrant agrees, adding, “A businesses account should be made up of well thought out and interesting content that accurately represents their essence.”

Curate carefully

Apathy and laziness equate to average uploads. Durrant says she only Instagram’s images that mean something. When uploading, ask yourself; what value the image will offer those who encounter it?

It’s also important to Instagram a variety of things. Twenty3 Media suggests that business accounts not just post images of their products, but include shots of the staff or life behind the scenes.

When picking your photo Venturas says it’s also a matter of making sure the image works as a square, “I don’t really believe in cropping images on Instagram,” he adds.

The great filter debate

Mayfair, Rise, Hudson or Valencia? Durrant and Venturas vote none of the above. They both prefer the subtle effects the VSCOcam app offers. Heavily filtered images aren’t always a hit, so it’s best to only tweak your picture slightly, concentrating instead on keeping the quality and the focus. Durrant recommends mixing it up, use filters occasionally and then upload #nofilter pictures, for visual variety.

Hashtags

Often an element of contention, hashtags can offer a lot, but if overdone just end up annoying or confusing followers. Venturas says Superbalist doesn’t use them in a ploy to gain followers but instead use hashtags as call-to-actions and as a way for users to share their experiences.

Relevant hashtags will direct users to your feed, and picking up a few new followers that way is, of course, advantageous.

Find your Instagram Zen

Durrant says she posts whenever she fancies, but Venturas says Superbalist aim for three a day. Varying the times of the day that they post offers maximum impact. Brands need to find a balance and stick with what works for them. Keep your brand top-of-mind by posting regularly, but don’t swamp your followers with new posts every few minutes.

Avoid cheap tricks

Employing a follow-for-follow mechanic may gain you numbers but followers will eventually see through it. Durrant and Venturas agree that organically growing your following is the right way to do it. By posting relevant, beautiful and engaging content, they will come naturally. Plus you’ll know they want to be there.

Have you got any killer Instagram tactics? Tell us in the comments section below.

 

How to win at social media

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First published on www.mediaupdate.co.za in May 2015

There’s no denying that if you aren’t online you aren’t maximising your brand’s potential. But just having social media platforms does not automatically stand you in line for success. Knowing your audience and posting appropriately on the right channels however, will.

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By Remy Raitt

Media Update has already touched on social media mistakes your brand should avoid and presented a beginners guide to social mediaand now it’s time to find out how to maximise the benefits the worldwide webs plethora of platforms offer.

Figure out your audience

“It needs to be taken into consideration that there are generally three types of audiences: growth, influencer and effectiveness audiences,” says Breeze Website Design (BWD) account manager Jade Duncan. Growth audiences are those who can increase sales, influencer audiences can play a role in building an organisation’s reputation, perception and credibility, and effectiveness audiences are responsible for delivering on and promoting brand promises.

Pick your platforms

Picking ideal platforms depends heavily on your brand. Founder and CEO of Hashtag South Africa, Conrad David, suggests investigating Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, YouTube, SMS campaigns and Slideshare. Duncan says Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram are ideal for millennial-orientated audiences.

“And it’s not just about having a page or profile on these accounts,” David says. “When you begin to lay the foundations to social, remember that you have to be willing to stretch your capabilities across platforms.”

Voluntarily engage your audience

“As we’ve moved into an era where clients have information at their fingertips, more and more companies have woken up to the fact that clients do not want to be advertised to or marketed to in the conventional, invasive manner anymore,” says Duncan.”They want to be voluntarily engaged. Social media is an ideal tool through which brands can share with their target audiences or speak with them, rather than at them.”

She says this is called ‘content marketing’. “For this reason, all the top brands around the globe are including social media as a vital part of their modern marketing mix,” she says.  “Bottom line is, that at some point, there will be a conversation about your company online. Question is whether you’d like to react to it or control it?”

Use social media to pull in revenue

Both Duncan and David stress that social media offers top of mind marketing, emanated in a non-evasive yet frequent stream. “Social media keeps brands in the loop of what customers are saying about their product,” says Duncan. “This means they can align their product development accordingly.”

Timing is everything

“You should strongly consider taking time out to plan a content calendar, understand your objectives, plot expected results and have responses ready for call to actions when comments start flying in,” says David.

He says when it comes to timing posts all one needs to do is think about what people are doing during different times of the day. “A good rule of thumb is to post business oriented content in business hours and content that is aimed at consumers after hours,” says Duncan.

Nailing the post

“People like many pages, so the battle begins and is won by pages with content that stands out from the pack,” says David. Duncan says posts should inspire, move or engage and that employing a communication agency for guidelines would be a wise move.

Both agree that posts should focus on quality over quantity as spamming your followers is a sure fire way to lose favourability.

What are your thoughts? How else could brands maximise outcomes from social media? Tell us below.

Navigating the grey areas around social media law

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First published on http://www.mediaupdate.co.za in May 2015

“A word can quickly turn into a court case,” says attorney David Dadic about social media and the law. In order to avoid unnecessary legal drama Dadic stresses the importance of implementing social media policies within your company.

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By Remy Raitt

“What a brand says online lays in the hands of social media managers,” says Dadic. “They are the voice of the brand. The brand therefore needs to educate their staff in the social media tools they are using.” Failing to put a social media strategy into employees’ contracts can land brands in trouble with the law or with a tarnished reputation. And because there are no specific social media laws set out in South Africa yet Dadic says there are plenty of grey areas to navigate.

Defamation

“South Africa hasn’t created a statute that deals with social media,” he says. “I think we will see them soon though. There is a worldwide outcry for it.” The fact that there have been a number of cases within our country that have seen employees dismissed due to social media misconduct emphasises this need.

Dadic says people usually land themselves in these sticky situations due to ignorance. “It’s vital the employees handling social media are aware of what can and can’t be said,” he says. “Primarily people are most ignorant that their comments, even if they were made in jest, can be construed as defamatory. People feel a sense of bravado behind their computer screens, that there won’t be repercussions, but actually things can be far worse when they are online. A face-to-face defamatory comment is limited to who saw or heard the comment being made, but on social media it is limitless, it could spread worldwide very quickly.”

“Generally the best thing to keep in mind, which has been said in numerous places, is that if you can’t say it to a person’s face then don’t say it on social media,” Dadic advises.

Dadic says another important fact to keep in mind is that defamation is subjective. Therefore social media managers need to remain conscious of their intended audiences as well as any other social media users who may come into contact with their posts. And this could be anyone online, so post with discretion.

“Social media also allows direct interaction so brands need to be careful. The lines of defamatory comment can be overstepped easily,” Dadic says. He says another big difference between social media and competitive advertising in other forms of media, is that “in social media you can attack your victim directly”.

And the more well-known the victim is, the bigger the repercussions of a defamatory post. Dadic says the general modus operandi when someone feels victimised on social media is to end harmful postings by ordering an interdict, which will prompt the court to restrain the offending person’s actions.

In situations taken to court, both the brand and the person posting their social media may be held accountable. These vicarious liability laws could see both the employer and employee being sued. Dadic says this further stresses the importance of having clearly defined social media strategies and policies in place.

Ideas of ownership

Another social media issue that is raising questions is the ownership of things like ideas, thoughts and images. “Just because these ideas or images are easily accessible does it mean brands should have access to them?” asks Dadic. He says it’s important that brands don’t step too far here by claiming publicly available content as their own.

“We don’t have social media laws in South Africa so we have to look at trademark laws which relate to invention,” he says. “There is very little that protects ideas or photos online, plus it is also difficult to quantify the value of an image. So this makes it difficult to sue.”

He says the underlying issue in situations like these is working out who that idea or image actually belongs to. It is still legally unclear if the person gave up ownership rights when they posted it online, but he says in cases like these courts will often looks at intellectual property laws.

While all South Africans hold the right to freedom of expression, our constitutional right to dignity must also be remembered. Social media platforms are increasingly seen as extensions of ourselves and Dadic says there needs to be more light shone of what is expected of people online. “People need to be aware that their words can really turn around and bite them,” he says.

For more information, visit www.dadic.co.za. Alternatively, connect with Dadic on Twitter.