The Difference Between a Blog and a Website in Your Marketing Strategy

“The Difference Between a Blog and a Website in Your Marketing Strategy” was co-authored by Stephanie Schwab and Christina Strickland.

A business with no blog or website is left open to the possibility of false representation. Of course, current or prospective clients can Google you, and chances are they will find something about you online. This information could include anything from a Yelp review of your business, your personal Facebook page, or maybe even a comment you left on a forum years ago.

Though none of this may hurt your business, it may not be the impression you’d like to project.

Give your audience a designated place to visit where they can find more information about you. A blog or website will be the reflection of your business that you choose to put on display. It will provide information and answer clients questions, but that’s only scratching the surface. Let’s dive a little deeper.

 
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Creating a Blog Content Engine

Recently, I had the honor of giving a presentation to some of the smartest people in social media. Hosted by the Social Media Association of Michigan, sponsored by Tech Town Detroit, I was asked to “cram everything I know about blogging into a one-hour presentation.”

Well, it’s pretty difficult to condense 12 years of experience into one hour. Knowing that these are savvy marketers, I thought presenting the tools and systems for keeping the content engine turning would be the most helpful since this can be a daunting task for even the most well-seasoned content marketers.

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Tips for Creating Agile Teams

Tips for Creating Agile Teams

Tips for Creating Agile Teams

Creating an agile team is more or less considered as a must for today’s entrepreneur, assuming you have a small, bootstrapped business. As global trends show, more and more successful businesses follow lean startup model methodology; therefore, creating an agile company and adding additional layers of flexibility and responsiveness to your team structure can really boost your results. Luckily, it’s not all that difficult to create an effective organization. Following are a couple of neat tricks you can resort to in order to add agile in front of your team.

All-round players

So, you’re small, you’re bootstrapped, you have lots of things on your mind, with little time and limited manpower. Hmm, this really seems like mission impossible. Things are lot easier if you have well-rounded players on your team, because the agile way of doing things is that everyone can step in anytime and fill in the shoes of a work colleague. There is no such thing as “not my job,” or “I’m not getting paid to do this.” In order for your team to be agile and effective, you have to select a qualified and proactive roster of players who will gladly work on new projects in order to learn new things and develop themselves further. Slow-moving-elephant corporate structures are outdated and long ago foregone. Forget about that mentality and adapt your company to new trends and models.

Guidance

If everyone are capable of doing nearly everything it still doesn’t mean that they can do whatever they like, whenever they like it. Proper guidance is the key for keeping your team happy, productive and on-point. Don’t simply issue out orders and assigning tasks, try to help people feel like they all have an equal opportunity to do what they like and encourage them to volunteer for upcoming tasks. This way they won’t feel like somebody is getting special treatment if the team leader assigns easier tasks to him or her, nor they will feel less valued if the team leader constantly assigns tasks to the same group of employees.

Outsource wisely

I’m sure we all must agree on this one here – no matter how much experience we have, no matter how much versatile we are – we can never know it all. So, for certain projects that you simply don’t have adequate manpower at-hand, don’t hesitate to call in mercenaries. And yes, by saying this we actually mean outsourcing certain parts of the projects to third parties. For example, if you lead a group of first class developers and you lack web and graphic designers on your team, just go ahead and bring a designer or two on board temporarily. I like this design team in Boston if you are in need of first class designers. Oh yeah, and one more thing – always remember to treat third parties as part of your own team. Don’t forget, they also hustle like you, and may not have as much experience working in an agile manner. Work together on this!

Long meetings are in the past

Conference calls, going through KPIs and why targets are not met, demanding feedback, proposing new ways of doing things (when things actually work already)…those are part of the past! Instead of nurturing the outdated corporation model of scheduling hours of team meetings every week, think of letting the team go with the flow. Allow them to learn to solicit feedback when they need it, and collaborate with others to solve problems. One brief “stand-up” (yes, where everyone stands up, so that the meeting moves quickly) meeting daily (no more than 15 minutes) will allow everyone to get on the same page, and a single weekly meeting can help your team stay on top of tasks as well as the bigger picture.

If your employees are overwhelmed by reporting and project administration, agile allows them to let them to do what they do best. And, if there really happens to be something urgent, you can always schedule a meeting. Your team will be more than happy to attend, as they will know that it’s going to be something important.

Never stop innovating

This is by far maybe the most crucial thing to understand: In order to get along in marketing, you should never really stop innovating. You should never be afraid of abandoning work habits and all the projects that you’ve been working on for past few years if such a situation arises. That’s what you need agile team for, and that’s what agile teams actually do. If you are able to step in instantly and step out just the same – you can consider yourself agile. No rest for the wicked I guess!

 

About the Author: Hellen McAdams is the chief strategist at Marketee.rs. She loves a good digital marketing strategy, and isn’t afraid to ask questions everyday to keep up with the industry’s trends. If you have any comments or questions, shoot her a question at @hellen_mcadams.

Hiring Interns Cost More Than You Think

Hiring Interns Cost More Than You Think

Hiring Interns Cost More Than You Think

Hiring an intern can seem like a win-win situation. You get cheap labor for handling your social media, and the candidates for your internship are likely to be digital natives. On top of that, you get the warm, fuzzy feelings that come with helping another person learn and gain experience that may help him or her secure a high-paying job one day. Before you jump for joy at your free or super cheap social media intern prospects, consider that there is a dark side to this arrangement. It’s highly likely your interns cost more than you originally thought they would.

Why Hiring Interns Costs More Than You Think

There are a few ways a social media intern may cost you money rather than help increase your profits. First, the very thing that makes them so cheap—lack of experience—can translate into lost dollars for you. You’ll either spend time training your intern, a job that can prove ongoing, or you’ll need to pay someone else much more experienced and costly to do so. Then there’s the cost of supervising the intern since you can’t let someone with absolutely no experience just take your social media ball and run with it with absolutely no oversight. That’s a recipe for disaster. However, the most-costly aspects of hiring a social media intern may be the most difficult to measure. These include the opportunities missed, the followers lost, and the slowed growth you may experience because your intern doesn’t know what he or she is doing.

hiring interns

TWEET THIS

Social media is so much more than putting up a great pic on Instagram. There is strategy, data, analytics, measuring ROI, and more to consider and implement. In most cases, a social media intern simply isn’t experienced enough to handle these aspects. And when you want social media marketing to be a viable part of your marketing (and who doesn’t?), you need someone qualified to do the job.

Here’s what to look for in a social media manager:

Experience with social media marketing

It is critical that the person you choose has experience with social media marketing, including the use of social media ads and a range of tools used for analyzing data, social listening, and streamlining efforts. While passion for social media and a desire to learn can go a long way here, it’s critical to keep in mind that accepting passion and learning ability in lieu of experience will cost you money.

An analytical mind

Posting whatever happens to catch your attention is fine when it comes to a personal social media account. Your business, however, will need a sound social media strategy, which will need to be tweaked, updated, and sometimes altogether changed as you go along. There is also data to analyze and ROI to measure. You’ll need a social media manager skilled with handling these aspects of the job.

Passion, drive, and curiosity

The person you choose as your social media manager should have a passion for using social media tools and platforms to market a business. It’s not enough to love using social media to share personal updates and images of grumpy cats. This person needs to love taking what’s available and molding it into an engaging experience for your target audience. Not only that, but your social media manager should have the drive to keep going when results are not as hoped and to look for ways to tweak and change things to better suit your business and your audience. Curiosity is important too as the social media arena is constantly changing. You’ll need someone interested in new opportunities and ways to make your business stand out online.

Graphic manipulation ability

Social media is incredibly visual and growing more so every day. You’ll need someone who has skill with manipulating graphics to create images that are eye-catching for your audience. In some cases, your manager will only need to source and edit graphics, but in others, you’ll need him or her to take your original images and turn them into something that represents your brand in the best possible light.

Customer service skills

More and more, customers are reaching out via social media for customer service. Ideally, your social media manager will have customer service experience and the mindset that the customers come first. You’ll need someone with the experience and desire to put the best face on your brand, responding quickly to questions and complaints, determining which issues are best moved offline, and following through in a timely manner.

An understanding of content marketing

Your social media manager should have an understanding of how content marketing works, the different types of content, and where and when to use each type of content. He or she should also have insight into your particular audience’s content preferences. The ideal candidate should have basic writing ability (decent grammar and the ability to get a point across clearly) and a basic knowledge of SEO.

Take the time to consider whether an intern is the right person to handle your social media campaigns. Make sure you are choosing interns with your eyes wide open since they will likely cost you money rather than help you save it. Choosing the right person for the job is critical to your success in all aspects of business, and social media marketing is no exception.

 

 

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Top Reasons Why You Should Be Using Video Captions

Video Captions: Not Just for Watching CNN at the Gym

Top Reasons Why You Should Be Using Video Captions

Top Reasons Why You Should Be Using Video Captions

These days the idea of making your content “mobile friendly” is top-of-mind for many of us in the content-generation business, but are you also thinking about making it as “people-friendly” as you can? You probably already know that as a best practice you should strive to make sure that your content is accessible to as many people as possible, but you may not be considering captions as part of that accessibility strategy. Here’s why you should.

Who Will Benefit From My Video Captions?

The Hearing Impaired

According to the National Association for the Deaf, there are somewhere around 36 million Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing — that’s a lot of people who you may not be reaching with your multimedia content if you miss out on captioning. I’ve heard first-hand the frustration from hard-of-hearing friends when they encounter a popular video post which they’re not able to get the most out of because the captions are nonexistent. By removing this barrier for people with hearing impairments, you expand your audience and make them more likely to engage with your content.

Non-Native Speakers

Also, consider those who may not speak English as a first language. If you’re anything like me, even if you speak a second language moderately well, native speakers can still sound incomprehensible when talking quickly, using slang, or even when they have a slight regional accent. Captions can help those in your audience who might not otherwise catch 100% of what you’re trying to convey.

The Public At-Large

Finally, you’ll reach those of us who just can’t be bothered to turn up the volume. I’m one of those curmudgeons (you may be, too) who nearly always has the volume turned down on their phone or laptop. The huge number of websites with autoplay videos has turned me into someone who will only un-mute if the content is *extraordinary* (or if it promises an adorable laughing baby). Plenty of people consume content everywhere they go, but not every place is conducive to playing audio — nobody wants to be that person on the bus, the one who you know for a fact is watching a movie trailer because. you. can. hear. it. from 30 feet away. Making sure users can read your content as well see it is much more practical in today’s mobile world.

OK – you’ve convinced me. I should be using video captions.

But Cori, you ask, what about automated captions? We’re living in the future, a magical time when I can ask the invisible lady inside my phone questions – do I need to manually sit there and type out every single video?

ABC – Always Be Captioning

I won’t pretend to understand the bond you have with Siri, but I will tell you that YES you should be manually creating your captions rather than relying on auto-transcription capabilities, and I’m going to tell you why. Anyone who has ever tried decipher a Google Voice auto-transcription or struggled to get their phone’s voice-to-text function to accurately record their thoughts will know that, while word-recognition and transcription technology can be impressive in some cases, it’s got a long way to go.
If your video has any sort of music, background noise, or features colloquial language, multiple speakers, or even a speaker who has a mild accent, relying on auto-captions can lead to confusion. You might not think it’s a big deal… until you discover the auto-captions have transformed your video touting “the cutest dress” into an ad for “acute distress” — not exactly the image you want to be conveying.

Video Captioning and SEO

Of course, if my arguments for creating accessible content haven’t swayed you, there’s one more great reason to caption your web videos: SEO. And you’ll be glad to know that user-created captions — on YouTube in particular — are indexed by search engines as they crawl for content. And, you should know that, if you’ve ignored my advice and are relying on auto-generated captions, you’re missing out on another source of traffic, since those automatically generated subtitles are not currently indexed by Google.

Do you have any captioning software recommendations? Any success stories? Horror stories? Let us know!

Social Media is More than a Part-Time Position

Can you use a part-time social media manager to achieve your online marketing goals? Will hiring a part-time social media manager be enough to acheive your goals?  Isn’t social media marketing simply making announcements to a network of people who have signed on to receive your news and tidbits? Isn’t it simply sharing links, images, and videos you find interesting or inspirational? Or is it all about building relationships and finding ways to engage with your prospects and customers? These things are definitely part of social media marketing, but they don’t tell the whole story.

There is much more to social media than just being social, and doing this type of marketing well requires more than a part-time effort. It requires a strategy, measurement, and constant nurturing. Too often, marketing directors think of social media as a part-time endeavor–something to do whenever time allows, a marketing tool to use whenever inspiration happens to strike, or worst of all, a task that is only performed as an afterthought. When their efforts fail to bring the desired results, they are forced to face one important reality—social media isn’t part time.

What Can an Agency Do that a Part-Time Social Media Manager Can’t?

Our agency dedicates between 30 to 50 hours a week per client, between all of our “hands,” to social media. This includes strategy, consulting, curating content, customer service, campaigns, reporting and more. To ensure that our clients enjoy measurable results, we put in a full-time effort. As with most things that really matter and make a difference in life, you can expect to get out of social media what you take the time to put into it.

Not many brands have an extra 30 to 50 hours worth of internal bandwidth to dedicate to social media marketing.  Many companies outsource their social media, and you can too. But first, you have to understand what it really takes to be successful in this arena. Here are just a few things that our agency does for our clients:

Set social media clear goals and objectives

Without careful, thoughtful goals and objectives, you’re not prepared to go anywhere. Why? Because you have no idea where you really want to go. Sure, you know that you need social media marketing, but you don’t have a clear idea of what you want it to do for you. We work with brands to determine what they need and then evaluate how social media can help meet those needs. Some possible goals can include increasing brand awareness and improving customer loyalty. Next, we set objectives for moving from an unrealized goal to a goal met. All of our objectives are:

  1. Specific
  2. Measurable
  3. Achievable
  4. Relevant
  5. Time Bound

That’s right! Make they are SMART!

Figure out who your ideal customer is

How? We develop buyer personas to ensure that when we are helping your brand, we are targeting the right people. We try to learn the following about your brand’s ideal customer:

  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Income level
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Challenges
  • Habits
  • Motivations

Choose the right social media platform

We help our clients work smarter, not harder. Avoid help them avoid spreading themselves too thin by attempting to have a presence on every social media network. This will waste valuable time. Instead, we use the buyer personas to figure out where your audience spends most of its time. Then, select a primary and secondary network on which to focus most of our efforts. We keep it simple and smart, making sure your brand is where your ideal customer is.

Develop a social media and content marketing strategy

Save the willy nilly posting for your personal social media accounts. For your business, we create a carefully considered strategy for the type of content (text, images, video, links, funny, serious, inspirational, etc.), a schedule for posting and strategies to drive engagement, encourage new followers, and keep your current followers happy and interested.

An on-point social media manager

CMOs and CEOs are typically far too busy with to spend the time needed to follow up on the follow through of a social media manager. Rather than proceed with far less than what you really need, a solution is to utlize an agency that understands not only the social media landscape and your business but also has the staff and bandwidth to nurture your brand’s community and online presence. All good social media manager should have the following character traits:

Curious: A good social media manager will be interested in how things work, why they work that way, what your audience needs, how to provide it, how to fix issues, and how to do it all better.

Teachable and adaptable: Things are constantly changing in the social media arena. New platforms come into play, certain strategies become more effective, your audience changes, or your competitors change the game. You need a social media manager who is eager to learn and willing to not only roll with changes but also lead the way in some respects.

Experience and skills: While it’s not critical that a social media manager knows everything (it is okay to learn more as he or she goes), you do want someone with skills in multimedia (including images, video, graphics). It’s also critical that a social media manager has experience with, and commitment to, exceptional customer service. Likewise, an understanding of analytics and analytic tools is important. This should include the ability to analyze data beyond basics, such as the number of likes or followers you have or how many times a post has been shared.

 

As you can see, social media success requires a great deal of time, effort, knowledge, and enthusiasm. The good news is you don’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) go it alone. Working with an agency can help augment your existing marking team and ensure that your brand’s social media, content and influencer marketing efforts are getting “all hands on deck,” freeing you mind other aspects of your brand marketing.

The Anatomy of a Social Media Policy

Your Corporate Social Media Policy

The Anatomy of a Social Media Policy

As a business owner, marketing manager, or executive, you may wonder if your company needs a social media policy. After all, nearly everyone we know uses a Facebook account, and lots of people are Instagramming photos of their families, or posting this weekend’s party on Snapchat. How do you protect your business when your staff are loose on the social web? Smart businesses have social media policies which govern the actions of employees in social media, whether on behalf of the company or while on their own time.

Most social media policies are crafted primarily with company protection in mind.  I’d argue that an equally important goal of your policy should be to eliminate confusion on the part of employees, making it safe for them to engage in social media without constantly asking for guidance (or fouling up). Therefore, a good social media policy needs a number of key elements in order to make it easy for employees to follow and clear for HR and executives to interpret. Even if you already have a policy, perhaps it’s worth checking to be sure you’re covering the following eight points.

1. Your Social Media Policy Establishes the Face of Your Company

The first part of your social media policy should cover protecting the company. You’ll want to document who is approved to speak on behalf of the company in social media. This could be anyone, or it could be only those people who have been specifically certified or trained to do so – and possibly only people who have been trained in your brand voice. You will probably want to think of social media in the same way as traditional media; after all, you wouldn’t allow just anyone to do a TV interview on behalf of the company, so why would you allow anyone to tweet for the company? And by “approved to speak,” you might mean in any instance – even the most basic of customer service issues may need to go through your approved social media team.

2. New Social Accounts

Make it clear who is authorized to create social media accounts for the company. Although you have likely already established your Facebook page and other social presences, someone in your organization might have a notion down the road that their branch or product line needs a Twitter account of its own. In order to keep things coordinated, perhaps state that all new social presences require approval and specify where that approval must come from.

3. Employee Personal Content

Set some boundaries for personal content. You probably don’t care whether your staff tweets about their kids or their knitting, so help them to see where the line is between work content and personal content. Some policies suggest that as long as employees are not talking about company-related topics, everything else is fair game.

4. FTC Endorsement Guidelines

Realize that staff do want to talk about their work – after all, they spend a lot of time thinking about work topics and it occupies a large part of their day. But you don’t want your employees to run afoul of the FTC Endorsement Guidelines, pumping up the reputation of your brand without full transparency into their relationship with the company. So include in your policy some info on how to incorporate industry or company information into their own conversations, without running afoul of the FTC rules. This could mean that they have to state their company affiliation in their social profile (but that their opinions are their own), or that they should indicate (#employer, or with an explanation and a link) in their tweets or personal blog posts.

If you’re part of an agency or consultancy that serves multiple clients, the same FTC rules apply, only your employees will need to disclose client posts with #client or an appropriate explanation and link.

5. Employee Advocacy

Do you want your staff to amplify your social messaging – retweeting your content or posting your blog posts to Facebook when it’s appropriate for their audiences? If so, clarify this point and help your team to do so; to streamline this process, you can use employee advocacy tools like Bambu, Circulate.it, or GaggleAMP. But be wary of requiring sharing of staff; it’s really not appropriate to ask people to use their personal profiles for business, and it could reflect badly on your company if it looks like you’re making your staff spam their family and friends with your corporate messaging.

6. What’s Off Limits?

Some content may be totally off-limits for any employee posting anywhere. This probably includes confidential information, posting anything negative about a competitor, or posting anything that could infringe on intellectual property laws, at minimum. While this may all seem obvious, put it in the policy anyway.

7. Customer Service & Employee Feedback

Give employees an outlet for passing along information they see in social media that they feel should be responded to. At the very least, providing an email address to the PR or customer service department within the policy will be a valve release for employees which may prevent them from trying to respond on their own.

8. Be Professional!

Remind everyone about the importance of professionalism and respect for others. This seems to go without saying, but why not put it in writing, just in case? Those videos of the company holiday party with the boss in the lampshade probably won’t be good for your corporate image.

A good  social media policy does not constrain your employees’ personal self-expression, but makes it obvious for them where to draw the line. Review some examples of corporate social media policies, work with HR or legal as necessary, and codify something that relieves the stress of “should I or shouldn’t I?” for your staff, while providing you peace of mind.

Have other thoughts about what a social media policy should include? Please share your ideas in the comments.

Blogger-Outreach-All-About-The-Followthrough

Influence Marketing: The Good & Bad of Following Up

Blogger-Outreach-All-About-The-Followthrough

“You gotta follow through all the way.” That’s what my dad, and later numerous softball captains, said over and over again every time I stepped up to the plate. (Mind you, I was no star softball player – just a casual work-league player who mostly warmed the bench.) I’ve taken that notion to heart in business, particularly, and try to be really diligent with followthrough on projects.

Apparently, many people who do blogger outreach and influence marketing do not adhere to the same concept.

follow through

I’m shocked, absolutely shocked, at how few PR people (or social agency people doing blogger outreach, but mostly PR people) pitch bloggers, meet them at events, bring them to events, or otherwise engage with bloggers and then drop them. Cold. Like a stone. No followup, no data gathering, often not even a thank-you note. Or worse, don’t even engage well to begin with.

Here’s my own experience with blogger outreach/PR followthrough. I attended the BlogHer conference one year, and met some nice brand folks at a bunch of parties and expo booths. I estimate that I gave out approximately 50 business cards to brand reps. I did not expect to get anything from any of them because if you go to the website listed on my card, it’s clear I’m not the kind of blogger brands want – I’m a social media pundit, not a parenting blogger or a lifestyle blogger or a food blogger. So I was surprised to have the following happen:

  • Two brands sent me an email thanking me for my visit with them and asking if I wanted to learn more about their products. Good work. I didn’t respond, so they didn’t either – perfectly fine.
  • One brand sent me an invite to a special “influencer-only” event that I was very interested in, so I RSVPd and they were lovely and encouraging so my family and I went. My husband, who is one of those influencers, is now in touch with that brand.

Those were examples of good follow-through. Really good, since I didn’t expect either to happen, given who I am. Here’s the bad:

  • Two brands put me on their email list. Yucch. Didn’t ask, didn’t opt me in, just added me. I unsubscribed from both immediately and now have a bad taste in my mouth about those brands.
  • Nearly six months after BlogHer, a mysterious package arrived for me via FedEx. It was from one of the big PR agencies. Beyond curious, I opened it to find a bunch of product from one of the brands who had had a presence at BlogHer. The only note: “It was a pleasure meeting you at….Please enjoy these [brand] samples enclosed.”

Tell me, what good is this kind of outreach follow-up, six months later, to someone who is not even in their target market, going to do for the brand? Does the brand even know that there is a (likely) coordinator-level person in the big PR firm’s office, sending out product (and a fair amount of it, too) willy-nilly to anyone and everyone?

There are lots of hilarious (and sad) examples of bad PR pitches out there; my recent favorite baddie was one for Kellogg’s Special K that a friend of mine received and then was blogged about by Jessica Gottlieb. Clearly PR people need to figure out how to pitch in a more personal way that doesn’t demean bloggers nor assume that they will work for peanuts (or nothing).

However, little has been written about the follow up, that all important next step once you’ve reached out to, met or worked with a blogger. Good followthrough is really no different than what your mom taught you about thank you notes: short, timely, relevant. Ask questions: How did the campaign perform for your site and audience? Are there any site stats or metrics you can share with me? Was this a good brand experience for you and your readers? Is there anything I can do differently when I’m working with influencers in the future?

If the influencer created content for you, hosted a contest, or did something else that you can point to, thank them with a note – but also by sharing their content on your brand channels and, perhaps, in your customer email marketing efforts. And begin the dialogue about the next campaign as soon as you can, to keep the momentum going.

Build in the time and process to follow through on your next blogger pitch and you’ll see how your data and metrics are more robust, your relationships blossom, and word-of-mouth on how you’re one of the “good PR people” spreads. It will make your job easier, and more rewarding, in the long run. And please share your ideas for good follow up with us in the comments below.

 

Why The Best Agency For You Might Not Be A Social Media Agency

Why The Best Agency For You Might Not Be A Social Media Agency

Why The Best Agency For You Might Not Be A Social Media Agency

Do you know who Danny Kaye is?Danny Kaye - Jack of All Trades

I think I can be appropriately curmudgeonly in saying that most kids today don’t know who Danny Kaye, the great 20th Century entertainer, is (was).

For those of you who are unaware, he was a huge star of his time, incredibly well-rounded, with a career that worked through stage, screen, television, records, and food. He died in 1987, after giving us the classic films such as “The Court Jester,” The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” and “White Christmas,” as well as a variety show and a handful of special TV shows. Kaye was a classic comic, too, always pushing the envelope even in serious situations.

A huge part of Kaye’s appeal was his incredible well-roundedness. No matter the situation, he was able to bring something to it: a little soft-shoe, his lovely singing voice, his wide variety of foreign accents, or his in-depth knowledge of food (especially Asian cuisine).

Kaye was a real, old-fashioned entertainment jack of all trades.

A Dying Breed

Today, being a jack of all trades isn’t necessarily something people aspire to, in entertainment or otherwise. Everyone seems to want to be a specialist in something: Hydraulics engineering. Periodontistry. A mass tort litigator.

And yes, a social media marketer.

Being someone who knows a lot about many things doesn’t seem as valuable today as it might have been in the past. With education costs rising sky-high, you want to come out of school knowing that you have a very specific (and ideally marketable) skill set. Once in the workforce, you want to move up, so you want to gain as much in-depth knowledge in your field as you can, to put you in line for a promotion. And later, when you become a senior manager, or even as a mentor, you’re often valued for your specific skill set and knowledge.

What happened to being a jack of all trades?

The Niche Marketer

Over the last ten or fifteen years, marketing has gotten more and more specialized as well. I got my MBA in Marketing at a time when there was mainly one graduate marketing concentration: the one with the 4Ps and 4Cs of the marketing mix, and taught using endless marketing case studies. Now you can get a Master of International Marketing, a Master of Health Care Marketing, or an MS in Integrated Marketing Communications. You can get an MBA, an MA, or an MS (not to mention undergrad degrees in various marketing disciplines). You can find a program that focuses more on digital or add a digital marketing strategy certificate onto your existing degree.

More and more often, we find our digital marketing agency being compared by potential clients to highly specialized social media marketing agencies. Many of these agencies do only social media: Facebook and Twitter posts, Instagram and Pinterest graphics. Many of them do not also do influence marketing and manage SEO and build websites. Or if they do, they sometimes learn it on their clients’ time (and dime).

A common origin story for some of these specialized agencies (which are often only one or two people) is that they are influential bloggers. Or they are Instagram influencers. Or YouTubers. And they believe that their experience managing their social media presences gives them the knowledge (and license) to manage corporate social media as well.

Jacks of All Trades Are Better

I contend that highly specialized social media agency (or a single individual providing social media services) is bad for corporations and small businesses. It’s one thing to train and manage someone internally to be your brands’ community manager – the person with their finger on the day-to-day content and engagement for your company social media channels. You need that person on your team, or else your agency should have that person on their team, and make sure they’re specialized in your subject matter.

It’s another thing to hire an agency that only knows social media marketing. Think of the old adage: if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I’d say, if you only have social media marketing, everything looks like Facebook.

So how do you know that an agency that only does social media marketing will make the right suggestions for your company’s marketing efforts?

Do they know the 4 Cs (context, customer, competition, company), and the 4Ps (product, price, place, promotion), of marketing? Can they understand where your product(s) fit into the market segment, and how to position them appropriately? Can they look beyond the digital realm to develop the correct promotional mix?

The best agency will have a good understanding of fundamental marketing principles, going well beyond social media. Your agency contacts may not be marketing majors or marketing MBAs, but they should have had enough marketing and business experience outside of social media so that they can understand how your social media fits into your overall marketing strategy.

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Hire the Best Agency For Your Company

To ensure that your company is getting the best advice from your social media agency, inquire about their broader experience outside of social media marketing. You can ask some or all of the following questions of potential new agencies (or even of the agencies you’re currently working with):

  • Who in their organization has formal marketing education?
  • At what level of education, and when did they complete their degree(s)?
  • Have they had experience working in agencies outside of the one they’re currently running or working for? (This helps you understand if they have seen appropriate, professional marketing agency processes and solutions….very important to know that their delivery to you will be buttoned up.)
  • Have they worked in other aspects of marketing, outside of social: brand management, marketing strategy consulting (ideally with a larger, well-disciplined consultancy such as Bain, PwC or Accenture), web design and development, partner channel management, etc.

Of course, these questions are on top of the standard questions you should ask before hiring any agency, including their work processes, who will be doing the work, and how do they bill their clients.

If your current or potential future agency seems like they aren’t very well-rounded, they probably aren’t. And then you should wonder if they’re going to pick up a hammer and give you Facebook.

They just might. And that would be very bad for your business.

7 Tips for Success in Social Media

“Keep it simple” is good advice when it comes to most things business related, and that includes social media. Why, you ask? Well, the fact of the matter is that some of the simplest things can influence your success with social media. However, it’s also the simple things that many business people overlook or forget to do on a regular basis.

For example, it is simple to share information that is of interest to your audience, striving to make their lives better, easier, or more entertaining rather than posting repeatedly about your business and what makes it so great. That’s simple but good advice, yet it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that we should always push our products and services. Unfortunately, constantly pushing our offerings backfires in a really big way. Likewise, there are many other ways in which the simplest of things threaten to trip up even the most-savvy business people. But, no worries. We’re here to help you avoid falling into some surprisingly simple social media traps.

Here are seven tips for ensuring your social media success, even as you strive to keep things simple:

  1. Don’t try to be all things to all people. There are just enough popular social media platforms to make it easy to spread yourself too thin. You figure you need to be on Facebook because everyone is there. But then you get to thinking you should be on [Insert Other Semi-Popular Social Media Network Here]. Then there’s that new social media network you just heard about (there’s always something new in the pipeline), and shouldn’t you be there too? It would be great if you could do everything really well at the same time, but the fact of the matter is that the quality of your presence and interaction with your audience is significantly diminished when you try to be everywhere. That’s the bad news. The good news is you really don’t need a presence on every network to reap the benefits of social media. Instead, figure out where the majority of your audience is, go there, and establish a strong presence on that social media network. If you hear how great a particular platform is, but your audience isn’t there, why should you be? Focus your efforts.
  2. Do branch out a bit when it makes sense for your business. Though you really don’t need to dominate every social media network out there, it’s also a bad idea to restrict yourself to just one. As mentioned in the previous tip, you want to be where your audience spends its time. It makes sense to research which social media networks are most frequented by your audience, and then concentrate on those particular social media networks. In general, most businesses can gain good ground by establishing a presence first on Facebook and then on Twitter and LinkedIn. Once you have that firmly in hand, you might choose to branch out to other platforms that cater to a significant number of your audience members if, and only if, doing so will truly help you engage your audience. If not, you’re probably just wasting time and energy. You’re looking for ROI here rather than simply the chance to see and be seen.
  1. Don’t restrict yourself to social media only. Social media can be a large and critical part of your marketing efforts, but it isn’t the only thing on which you should spend your time. Email marketing is still an important part of the marketing mix, and it’s a mistake to nix email in favor of social media. Instead, it’s a good idea to start your conversations on social media and engage your audience there, but when the time comes for a more in-depth conversation, take advantage of email to further the relationship. And don’t forget that telephone calls and in-person meetings can also help solidify a relationship you initiated via social media. Likewise, emails can be a great vehicle for sharing news and promotions and reminding past customers that you still have what they need. Keep in mind that some of your followers probably miss a significant portion of your posts. Let’s say a past customer hasn’t seen your posts in a bit. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Well, not in this case, because you send a monthly email newsletter that reminds your customers that they need more of [Insert Product Here] and can’t do without your excellent service.
  1. Do use hashtags. You want people to easily find your posts. When they go looking for relevant information, you want them to find you. Hashtags make it possible for people who are searching for what you have to offer to find you. And that’s not all. Not only do hashtags make it easier for you to target a specific audience, but they also make it easier for you to monitor what others are saying about your business and keep an eye on what your competitors are doing (so you can strategize ways to better serve the same audience that they are targeting).
  1. Don’t post willy nilly. Your messages should suit not only your unique audience but also the network on which you’re posting. To save time, you may consider posting the same message to all your social media networks. Don’t do this. Some types of posts that do really well on one social media network may not fly on another. And if your audience follows you on more than one platform, it could be super-annoying for them to see the same posts popping up in multiple feeds. Instead, take note of the types of messages that work best on each network, tailor your content to the specific platform, and vary your messages.
  1. Do track, monitor, and measure everything you do on social media. Time truly is money, and it’s a waste of time to fly by the seat of your pants on social media. You need to monitor and measure if you want to learn what works and how it’s helping your business. Move forward with the efforts that get you the results you want, and reduce or stop the efforts that aren’t helping you meet your goals. Have a new, potentially game-changing idea? Don’t blindly run with it, pushing forward even when the results are disappointing. Instead, test, test, test, and tweak, tweak, tweak!
  1. Be true to yourself and your audience. No one likes a phony, and your social media success is dependent on people liking you enough to pay attention to your posts. Even virtually, people can spot a fake from a mile away. Being likable is important, as people want to do business with people they like, but trying too hard to be someone you’re not is a recipe for disaster. Go ahead and be yourself, be genuine, and let your audience catch a glimpse of the person you really are. While you’re at it, consider sharing a video of you talking about your business, sharing some valuable information, working hard to produce for your customers. This helps your audience feel personally connected to your business, a feeling that is worth its weight in gold.

Strategies needn’t be complicated to serve you well. Apply the simple tips above to your social media efforts and meet your goals faster. What simple strategies have helped your social media marketing efforts? Share with us in the comments!