2015 Reality Check

In the days leading up to and following 31 December 2014, my social media feed was flooded with declarations of what 2015 will and will not be and what people will and will not accept in the new year.

Reality check: Your year will be what it will be…

Set your goals and work your tail off, knowing that you’ll win some and lose some. You’ll win some easy ones and you’ll slog your guts out for others with not even a hint of progress.

Don’t. Give. Up!

Your success is not determined by how boldly and loudly you stake your claim at the beginning of the year, but by how hard and consistently you work at it all year long – even when it’s ‘not working’.

Don’t get discouraged when it feels like it’s all falling apart. It’s not really falling apart; it’s just reducing the sum to smaller parts to make it easier to work with…

By all means map your success, write your goals and share them with the world – I do every year – but high-five the stuff-ups, the failures and the frustrations as an essential part of the game…

Happy New Year!

Is Google+ a serious social media contender?

Remember when Google+ first launched in 2011? It was a social media platform that could only be joined by ‘invitation only’, a strategy that generated so much hype that many people where calling it the ‘new Facebook’. Soon after, the hype seriously fizzled out and Google+ soon became open to everyone. Unfortunately, nobody seemed to really care anymore. I remember saying to my friends and colleagues ‘Hey, whatever happened to that Google+ thing? What a #fail’.

While myself, and pretty much everyone else, went back to enjoying Facebook life, Google+ was making some serious updates and changes that would make it the marketing goldmine it is today. To many individuals, Google+ still seems a little foreign, however marketers and big brands are quickly jumping on Google+ and including it in their marketing and PR strategy. Google+ is now the second largest social media platform. I know, right? When did that happen?

So, why should Google+ be taken seriously in your marketing and social media strategy?

This one is obvious, but Google+ is owned by Google. Anything owned by this corporation will continue to update and improve until it reaches its desired popularity. Remember when you could sign in to YouTube normally and then all of a sudden one day you had to make a Google+ account to sign in? This might be why it’s the second largest platform, but it’s a testament to how integrated social media will become in the future.

Essentially, Google+ has taken all the best features of the most popular social media sites and rolled it into one amazing package. There are groups, videos, maps and even the possibility of conference calling.

Google+ may seem like ‘another Facebook’, however there are many important differences that need to be noted. Facebook is mainly about connecting with your friends and family and maintaining your relationship through them. Google+ is about building new relationships and discovering new content, which will expand your interests and horizons. Google+ allows you to set up communities called ‘Circles’ allowing you to categorise your connections with your interests. This is why Google+ is so beneficial to marketers – it’s a platform about information and storytelling and your audience actually WANTS to listen to what you have to say and learn from you.

Google+ also has incredible reach both on and off the platform. Have you ever forgotten you were connected to someone on Facebook and wondered why you never see their posts in your newsfeed? This is because Facebook filters your news to show you only what it thinks you’ll be interested in. With Google+, if you have 300 connections, your updates will show up in every single one of their pages.

Most importantly, Google+ has absolutely insane SEO potential. Every post is continually crawled for content and indexed, just like a website would be. This is why sometimes in your Google search, a bunch of Google+ sites will pop up on the first page. Some people have critised Google for its extreme bias towards its own platform, but in my opinion, if you play Google’s game you’ll be rewarded immensely.

Do you have a Google+ profile? Do you use it for building connections or for its SEO potential?

Contributor:

Sarah Brown, Account Co-ordinator, Stolen Quotes

Quantity versus Quality

Let’s play a game. Imagine I have both of my hands filled with M&M’s – but my right hand is far more full than my left. So full it’s overflowing. And you’re a chocoholic. Which hand are you going to pick?

(If you said left, then you’re either lying or not playing properly.)

Here’s where my metaphor will start to shock. That overflowing hand of M&M’s you’ve picked? All of the chocolate is stale, and mouldy and inedible. In my left hand – the hand that was nowhere near as full as my right, are peanut butter M&M’s. And they are fresh. And they melt in your mouth. And you love peanut butter. Are you catching my drift?

This is the old quality versus quantity debate. Most people will choose the hand with more M&M’s – not questioning the quality. More means better, right?

So how does this relate to PR?

With the convergence of traditional and digital media, the PR landscape is rapidly changing. It’s no longer enough to send out media releases to journalists in the hopes of getting front-page coverage on a metropolitan newspaper.

Today it’s all about digital. A rise in social media platforms, SEO awareness and user engagement has naturally lent itself to the PR industry. Companies today are touting themselves as ‘social media experts’ claiming they can assist with ‘social media strategy’ as a component of an overall PR strategy, getting your company’s Facebook page hundreds of likes in days of launching.

But how do you know you are getting value from these likes and follows? And how do you measure ROI?

This is where strategy comes into play. Before commencing any social media project, make sure to compile a digital strategy report. The report should highlight the varying social media channels including recommendations around whether your company should even be on social media in the first place. That’s right – sometimes it’s better for your company to stay off of Facebook.

If your company does require a social media presence, make sure to work at creating online communities that cater to your business’s target market audience. Facebook insights are brilliant in that they tell you exactly who is engaging with your page; by age, gender, occupation – you name it.

The thing is, anyone can buy your page hundreds, if not thousands, of likes in a matter of days – even Tony Abbott did it. But the insights tool will show you that these likes are from hundreds of people in Mauritius (as an example). Great if you’re launching in Mauritius. Not so great otherwise.

It’s time for businesses to realise that the true value in social media and digital strategy is not necessarily around how many likes your page has, or how many followers like your status. It’s about the quality of the connection – does the follower fit your target market? Will engaging with them online increase sales opportunities?

If your social media page has far less followers than your competitors, but over 80% of your followers are your target market, then you’re onto a good thing.

And you should reward yourself with a handful of M&M’s.


 

Contributor:

Hollie Azzopardi, Account Manager for Stolen Quotes

A blog about blogging

This is a little blog about blogging.

While many marketers are discussing the death of blog, I’m going to tell you why blogs are still relevant in today’s social media marketing environment.

Blogging was at its peak a few years back – pretty much every man and his dog had a blog. There were marketing blogs, mummy blogs, celebrity blogs and pretty much any other topic that you can think of.

It’s safe to say that many people are over the blogging phase. Over the years we’ve been inundated with so many new social media platforms that having a blog might seem a little irrelevant – maybe even extra work. But whether you’re a small business or a widely recognised national brand, blogging is still an extremely advantageous communication strategy.

For me personally, I love blogging because it gives me the opportunity to get the thousands of random thoughts out of my head and onto paper…or so to speak. Blogging allows me to take complex and scattered thoughts and put them into a logical sequence. The same outcome applies to brands – if you’re a brand that has a complex service offering or is dealing with a public relations crisis, taking the time to write down your thoughts, and logically explain your brand’s position will not only bring clarity to you and your business but to your customers as well. It puts everyone on the same page.

Most brands utilise mainstream social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. A blog allows you to connect with your audience on a much deeper level. First of all, you’re not restricted by character limits, pictures, etc. You can use as many or a little words, pictures or videos as you need to. Secondly, audiences are in a different frame of mind when reading blogs than when on mainstream social media. If they’re reading your blog – they’re in your space and are more attentive to what you have to say. If they’re receiving your communication on Facebook or Twitter – you’re in their space and anything you can say can be taken as an interruption or an annoyance.

According to a 2012 Nielsen article, blogs are mainly written by a higher-educated audience and thus attract more educated audiences than most social media platforms. These audiences may even have blogs themselves, giving them more persuasive and referral power than the average Joe on Facebook.

From a branding perspective, blogs are a great opportunity to showcase your brand personality and differentiate from competitors. It puts your brand in the position to educate customers and gives them greater buying power.

Blogs also have amazing SEO potential. Many of our website hits come from our blogs because we continually update them while strategically hyperlinking them back to our pages.

If you’re still on the fence about the whole blogging thing, here’s a bunch of blogs that we love:

What are your favourite blogs?

Contributor:

Sarah Brown, Account Coordinator for Stolen Quotes

Prankvertising – Cheap Lols or a Genuine Strategy?

A couple of episodes ago, the panel at Gruen Planet looked at the phenomenon of ‘prankvertising’ – advertising and PR stunts based on a prank or trick in an attempt to generate publicity.

Chances are you’ve seen prankvertising pop up on your Facebook feed.

Like this one:

And it wouldn’t be a blog on prankvertising without mentioning this one:

The content is created to shock, entertain and, when done successfully, generate publicity for the brand/cause/product. The above videos have both hit well over the ‘one million view’ mark, creating a viral river of shares, likes and comments behind them.

Additionally, the content allows brands to focus on generating exposure on digital platforms, steering spend away from traditional advertising and PR.

Are these videos strategic in that the content has resulted in huge brand exposure and millions of people talking about their video? Or do the videos miss the mark – providing viewers with a good laugh, and not much else?

To put it simply, does the LG ad make you want to buy the TV? Did the Carrie coffee shop prank convince you to head to the movies?

When done strategically, prankvertising can generate talk for all of the right reasons.

Like the following piece by Leo Burnett London:

Didn’t see that coming did you? The clip leaves you thinking, which is exactly the aim of the piece – to leave the viewer with a message (don’t drink and drive), as opposed to selling a product. This is prankvertising done well.

But it doesn’t always have to be shocking. Take it from our friends in New Zealand, who decided to fill an unsuspecting mates plumbing with Tui beer:

A successful prankvertising piece thinks of the target market audience and crafts a clever enough prank that will have the ‘viral effect’ among the intended audience. For Tui Beer, they hit the nail on the head.

What do you think? Is prankvertising the ‘cheap laughs’ of the digital advertising world? Or when done well, can it generate greater brand publicity than traditional advertising and PR?

Contributor:

Hollie Azzopardi, Account Manager for Stolen Quotes.

‘Pinfluence’

According to the GlobalWebIndex, Pinterest has become the fastest growing social media platform in the world. Not Facebook. Not LinkedIn. Pinterest.

While Facebook still remains the most popular social networking site, with 62% of Internet users actively using the page, Pinterest’s active users grew 88% this year and is projected to continue to grow at such a high rate in 2014.

Why is Pinterest so popular?

Pinterest differs from most social media platforms as it’s not about sharing, it’s about collecting. The bonus is that other people can see what you’re collecting, and collect as well. For those not familiar with Pinterest, you can create boards such as ‘Travel’ or ‘Food’ and collect images that inspire you. You can choose to have your boards public (everyone on Pinterest can see them) or private (only you can see them).

Psychologically, people feel less exposed on Pinterest – they don’t need to hand over private details such as birthdates or include an image of themselves. There also seems to be less judgement on Pinterest in comparison to Facebook and Twitter because Pinterest is a site that people use for themselves, not to interact with others.

If we think about the majority of content on social media, images reign supreme. Social media has moved in a direction where visuals attract the most engagement. It’s no wonder a social media platform all about images is growing so quickly.

Pinterest is also an extremely powerful marketing tool. In fact, Pinterest does more than just spread brand awareness – it can directly influence sales. I like to think of this as ‘Pinfluence’ (I thought I coined this term but a Google search proved it’s been around for months).

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, 21% of Pinterest users bought an item in a store after pinning, repinning or liking the item on the site. The site is acting like a user-generated catalogue for individuals. Individuals are searching products online, pinning the ones they like and then entering a physical store to purchase them. The article suggests that users pin 24% of their images from strangers, 19% from friends, and 7% from retailers. Consider the power and virality of a product image getting pinned just from one individual.

If this isn’t powerful enough, Pinterest is also a great SEO tool in driving traffic to your website. Pinterest was the 7th referral site for one of our clients, whose Pinterest page has only been active for 2 months.

If you’re still on the fence about Pinterest – create a page and have a play with it yourself. Some of the most popular boards are Travel, Fashion and Weddings. You might find that you have been ‘Pinfluenced’.

Contributor:

Sarah Brown, Account Coordinator for Stolen Quotes.

Why exclamation overuse is a marketing crime.

Before reading this post, please watch this quick Seinfeld clip, which sums up my exclamation point views entirely.

There is nothing more cringe-worthy to me than an advertisement or piece of marketing material with an overuse of exclamation points.

The exclamation point says a number of things to me:

  • The writer lacks creativity, inspiration or both and is attempting to make something that lacks excitement, exciting
  • The writer has a limited vocabulary, and instead has resorted to punctuation abuse rather than creative and interesting copy
  • The writer shouldn’t be a writer

I have an exclamation point rule. When reviewing an email, status update or report, I cull a minimum of three exclamation points. (Let’s be honest, if there are three or more exclamation points in your email, status update or report, you need to question what you’re writing.)

Too often I see businesses committing the act of inappropriate, unnecessary exclamation in marketing documents including brochures, flyers and so help me God, annual reports.

Like this one:

To the writers of the world, please, control your exclamation overuse. And that doesn’t mean resorting to capitalising words, it just means saving the exclamation points for births and surprise party invitations.

Contributor:

Hollie Azzopardi, Account Manager for Stolen Quotes.

Facebook ‘Bumping’

Facebook is starting to roll out a new algorithm that dictates what appears at the top of your news feed. It’s called ‘Story Bumping’ and it means that older posts will be ‘bumped’ to the top of your feed depending on their relevance.

For those of you who have had enough of seeing the same post promoting a product you don’t care for, by a brand you’ve never heard of, in a product category you want nothing to do with, this might be Facebook’s saving grace.

The Facebook newsfeed will begin prioritising posts that are ‘new to you’ rather than just posts with thousands of likes. Facebook’s new formula will favour unseen posts with more likes and comments from friends who you have interacted with most recently. The result is that newer and more relevant content will be appearing higher up on your feed.

This means as a user, you will no longer have to wade through the murky waters of promoted content and posts of acquaintance’s children to see if there was any new content from your closest friends and favourite pages.

While it is currently unclear what this means for brands that promote their posts, it does mean that non-promoted posts will garner more attention and engagement with an audience that cares about them.

According to Advertising Age, “Facebook claims that engagement for posts from “pages” – which could be from a brand, an organization, or a public figure – were up 8%.”

We think story bumping is a great step forward for Facebook and we’re excited to see what new content pops up in our newsfeed from friends and brands alike.

Also, remember to hop onto the Stolen Quotes Facebook page if you’re a fan of memorable quotes, PR and advertising, and street style photography.

Contributor:

Jason Gieng, Designer for Stolen Quotes.

Does the Public Relations Industry Suffer From Bad PR?

“And what do you do for a living, Sarah?”

“I work in Public Relations”

“Oh … Okay. You don’t really seem like the PR type.”

I’ve had this conversation a few times since I started working in the PR industry a year ago. For many people, when they think “PR” they imagine huge ‘Gatsby-like’ launch parties, celebrity gossip columns and fashion events. Some people even think my job is to write spin stories for politicians caught in sex scandals. For an industry that sells reputation management as a valuable service, still maintaining this stereotype isn’t great news.

I’ll be honest with you, PR was never a career path that interested me. I had my first taste of the PR stereotype when I was at university. I studied Advertising and shared many of my classes with people who were also studying PR. While I am sure there were many great, talented and intelligent PR students in my class, my judgment was clouded by loud and overly opinionated girls who were interested in building their careers around parties, celebrities and fashion – none of which I particularly cared for. That’s why people seem surprised to hear someone like me can work in PR – and actually enjoy it.

The general stereotype of public relations has devalued the industry. I see many businesses from prosperous industries such as mining and industrial or financial fail to understand the value of including public relations in their marketing strategy. And why would they include it? How would Fitzy and Wippa hosting their event help them with their reputation?

Over the past year working in a PR firm, “parties, celebrities and fashion” are barely mentioned. I have found PR to be quite exciting – it’s strategic, daring and even creative. PR is all about finding relationships between a brand and its audience and creating credible and engaging content that helps build and maintain these relationships. In fact, this blog that I am writing is part of a larger, comprehensive PR strategy.

I’ve seen some great PR work from brands over the past couple of years. Check out Dove, Oreo and even Rekordelig for some examples.

So, how will the PR industry ever be able to break free from its air-kissing, skinny-caramel-latte-drinking, celebrity-loving reputation?

In my opinion – just keep doing great work. If we spend our time ignoring the stereoptye and keep producing great results – it will only be a matter of time before the rest follow.

Contributor:

Sarah Brown, Account Coordinator for Stolen Quotes.

How ‘social’ is social media?

If I’m at a bar and I don’t check-in, was I ever at the bar?

Okay that was a joke question, but it highlights an interesting concept around the way social media affects the way we socialise today.

According to recent statistics, the average Australian person spends around 13 hours a week on social media. If we assume that most of us don’t spend our working hours on social media and we don’t include the time we are asleep, we are spending a large proportion of our free time scrolling through our news feed, updating our status and Tweeting to the world.

Don’t get me wrong, I love social media, it’s a huge part of the industry I work in and using social media is an essential part of my job. I spend a good chunk of my working day on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. While I love feeling connected and building relationships through social media, I have to wonder what I miss out on when I completely disengage from my physical surroundings.

When I think about some of the stand out moments of my life – travelling, seeing my favourite band in concert and my 21st birthday, I disengaged from all these moments to reconnect with my online social network. On my birthday, I spent time checking in and taking photos. When I saw my favourite band, I filmed my favourite song and uploaded it to Facebook straight away. When I travelled, I took hundreds of selfies in front of famous icons and put them on Instagram. The scariest (and somewhat embarrassing) truth to the travel photos is that I didn’t take them so they could be treasured memories of my trip – I took them because I know travel photos get a lot of ‘likes’.

So here are some questions for consideration:

  • Has our social media started to dictate our social lives?
  • Does appearing to have a good time mean more than actually having a good time?

Whether we like to admit it or not, I’m sure many of us answered yes to these questions, myself included.

This month the Stolen Quotes team is trialing #LowFiJuly. We are all putting away our mobile phones at lunches, work drinks, networking events and pretty much any social outing. (Ironically we’ve made #LowFiJuly a hashtag – we only tweet about it after lunch, we swear!) So far we’ve all done extremely well and I feel personally more connected and engaged in the lives of my colleagues. It actually feels like a weight has been lifted because I no longer obsessively scan my news feed while trying to tell the team about my weekend plans. Who knows, #LowFiJuly might stick around for August.

Contributor:

Sarah Brown, Account Coordinator for Stolen Quotes.