Last week’s April Fools’ Day was a bit of a damp squid for me. Not because there was a lack of creative, funny and almost believable April Fools’ Day stories doing the rounds but because of the way a lot of people reacted to them.
April Fools’ Day has historically been an opportunity for brands and their audiences to share a lighter moment. The day has been a chance for publicists to slacken the chains of creativity and come up with harmless stories that make people ask ‘Really? Are they really going to do that? Surely that’s not true? Is it?’
I remember Uri Geller encouraging breakfast TV viewers to place a slice of bread on top of their TV as he was going to toast it using the power of his mind! My grandpa nearly wet himself as I became an April Fool. I was only about 10, I hasten to add.
Previous generations have also been duped by spaghetti growing trees, BBC staff fighting behind Des Lynam as he presented Grandstand, and Big Ben going digital to keep up with the times (sorry!) More recently, Burger King introduced the Left Handed Whopper and YouTube RickRolled us to watching Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up far too much.
Two years ago, Lava ‘discovered’ the world’s oldest store loyalty card in the foundations of the Waterside Shopping Centre during the mall’s redevelopment. Quite a few people came into the centre to look at it when it was displayed between 9am and midday, and I don’t think anyone moaned about the prank when they found out it was an April Fools’ Day joke.
This year, we were once again behind a 1st April prank for the centre. We joined several local companies who issued humorous, fictitious stories for the media to cover (if they wanted to join in the fun). Further afield, Mumsnet Jobs announced it was partnering with NASA and the European Space Agency to find the perfect mother and baby team to go into space as part of a trial investigating the viability of space travel for infants. Professor Green Tweeted that he was changing his name to Professor Green Tea as part of a deal with PG Tips and Honda introduced the first ever emoji number plate.
What I noticed this year was the amount of people who took to social media to berate companies and organisations about their 1st April stories. Some people even got political and expressed their disbelief that taxpayers money was being used to fund these far-fetched, ludicrous developments.
Has it always been this way? Have people always reacted to April Fools’ stories in such a negative way or has social media given the ‘angry minority’ a louder way for them to air their views? I don’t know.
What I do know is that when you’re planning an April Fools’ story you need to be very careful indeed. Look at Google and its plans for a Mic Drop feature in Gmail.
“Today, Gmail is making it easier to have the last word on any email with Mic Drop. Simply reply to any email using the new ‘Send + Mic Drop’ button. Everyone will get your message, but that’s the last you’ll ever hear about it. Yes, even if folks try to respond, you won’t see it,” the firm said on its Gmail blog on 31st March.
The internet giant introduced Mic Drop to millions of Gmail accounts. Unfortunately, an error in the programming, meant that the feature went live when people clicked the normal send button instead of the Send + Mic Drop button. For some users, the feature was live for 12 hours! Obviously, this had a severe impact on people and shows what happens when brands take things too far.
Businesses need to think very carefully about how they communicate with their audiences and the way they try to engage with people. If they get it wrong, social media now gives people – even if they’re a minority – a very loud way of venting their frustrations.
Whether it’s an April Fools’ Day joke that people don’t think is funny side or a delayed train or plane, people now have a way of making their feelings known without entering into a face-to-face conversation and this is giving consumers confidence to come back at companies. No longer will people say to a waiter that their meal was fine even though the steak was burnt – they’ll Tweet their opinion or post it on Facebook or TripAdvisor for the world to see.
On the whole, this is a good thing, as complaints, if justified, give companies a chance to make improvements.
However, it also gives people a chance to type first and think later. My worry is that marketers will become too cautious and overly concerned that publishing anything light-hearted, especially on 1st April, will just result in a wave of negativity and we might lose the tradition all together.
So you’ve decided you need some external help with your marketing and you’re going to engage a marketing agency. But should you be looking to work on a retainer or project basis?
For those that haven’t worked with an agency before, a retainer is a regular payment, normally over a 12 month period. A project relationship sees you work with an agency for a much smaller period of time.
There are benefits to both ways of working and which one is right for you will depend on what you want to achieve.
Most agencies and consultancies prefer retainers as they guarantee regular, repeated income, which is good for cashflow. How much the retainer is set at will normally be based on a simple calculation: The value of the time needed to meet the brief divided by the campaign period.
The benefits of a retainer are that you are giving the agency a much longer time frame to work with you. This will mean that they get to know you, your audiences, target markets and target media (in the case of PR) a lot better as they have more time to invest.
Another benefit is that you are securing the agency’s loyalty. This is particularly important for PR, social media and marketing campaigns. You don’t want your agency working with one of your competitors. You need to ensure there is no conflict of interest.
Another benefit of a retainer relationship is that your marketing activity will have a consistent tone of voice and style.
The vast majority of agencies want to have long-term relationships – years not months. A retainer agreement shows that you think the same. Because you want a long-term relationship, the agency will be keener to please. They will be constantly thinking about you. This isn’t to say agencies aren’t focused during project work, they are. However, they are only focused on you for the duration of the project and tend to stick to the confines of the brief rather than looking around the brief.
Project agreements work best when there is a set start and end date or a specific target you want to achieve.
Festivals, event support, exploiting specific trends and product or service launches lend themselves perfectly to project-based relationships. Design work – whether it be a piece of print or a website – are also projects.
Project agreements allow organisations to work with a wide range of agencies and not commit to a long-term agreement. They give you a chance to work with agencies with specific skill sets. So, if you have a niche product or market (young people, for example) you can work with an agency that specialises in that sector.
Project work is also a good way for companies to ease themselves into a longer-term relationship. If your chosen agency makes a good job of a project, you can then give them another and another.
A word of warning though – because of the short-term nature of projects, agencies sometimes charge a premium hourly rate for them compared to retainer relationships.
Whichever way of working you decide on, it is vital that you prepare a detailed brief, set a budget and, most importantly, have SMART objectives – things that you want to achieve that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.
So, which way do you prefer to work? Project or retainer? We’re happy with both!
Social media giant, Twitter, celebrated its 10th birthday on Monday (21st March). To mark the occasion, we’ve put together our top ten tips for SMEs wanting to get the most out of the platform!
1. Make sure you can be found Twitter has come a long way since CEO Jack Dorsey posted his first tweet in 2006:
With 974 million accounts worldwide, Twitter’s ten-year milestone highlighted just how far it’s come in a relatively small space of time, but with so many people using the platform, how do you make sure your business is easily found?
A lot of it comes down to a searchable handle, i.e. your Twitter username. Strong SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is vital for your page’s popularity and making the journey to finding your account as stress free as possible.
This also applies for the bio section, as it’s a good idea to use appropriate hashtags within your description so anyone searching, for example ‘#Lincoln #Construction’, would come across your page.
Top tip: make sure your business name is included in the @ of your username. If you want to change your current @ handle on Twitter, simply go to the account settings tab on the top right of the page and change the username listed in your username field.
2. Clear branding First impressions always count, and it’s the same for Twitter! Make sure your profile looks as professional as possible by using a correctly sized logo and cover photo that doesn’t look distorted or blurry. You want your page to be visually appealing, as well as informative, to capture your audience’s attention.
Top tip: a picture paints a thousand words! Sum up what you do as simply and creatively as possible. Our @WeAreLava account is the perfect example:
3. Link to your website Make sure you add your website’s URL to your bio. This gives your audience the opportunity to easily research your services further with just the click of a button, which, in return, could win you new business, increase your sales and help you network virtually within your industry.
4. Upload photos You want your content to be as visually inviting as possible, when people are flicking through their news feed, an interesting picture or other form of multimedia is a sure way to make them stop in their tracks and delve a little deeper by clicking on your Tweet.
5. Use the lingo Twitter was created to be concise and snappy, so to get the most out of the platform, speak in its language. Tagging other companies in with the @ symbol and using appropriate #s will increase the reach of your Tweet and give you a more dominant voice when interacting online.
If you find where to use @ or # symbol’s confusing, a good rule of thumb is: @ = tagging other people in # = key words.
Top tip: use the search bar and type in either your company’s name or relevant keywords to see who’s talking about your business. This could open up an interesting conversation or help find Tweets where people have forgotten to tag you in!
6. Tweet regularly The more you post, the more familiar people will be with your product.
If you don’t have someone specifically in charge of your social media, it can be time consuming to post informative and engaging content whilst trying to juggle your other day-to-day jobs.
Top tip: write your social media content a week in advance (as well as on the day if you can!) This will free up time and ensure your page is always filled with interesting posts.
7. Be in the loop! The Moments tab on the top left of your screen is a useful new tool that Twitter has rolled out to make the platform a hub for news and information.
Top tip: is there something groundbreaking or newsworthy happening in your industry? Has someone written an interesting article commenting on the subject? Retweet it! This will keep you up-to-date in terms of news and creates the image of being proactive within your industry, as breaking and topical news topics will be featured on your page.
8. Be sociable Social media is meant to be sociable! If someone interacts with your business, try to make the time to respond, favourite or RT as a form of acknowledgement! This gives your business an approachable and friendly image that, in return, will increase customer loyalty to your brand.
Top tip: if someone Tweets a complaint about your business, reply politely and ask them to direct message you. This will stop your interaction from being in the public domain and will show the person complaining that you’re trying to resolve the issue.
9. Grow your audience Are you trying to grow the amount of followers you have? A good technique to increasing this quickly and with no costs at all is to follow other relevant accounts. From competitors, clients and local media to companies and figureheads in the area, people usually follow back, so put the time in and you’ll reap in the rewards.
10. Enjoy your account! When writing your social media content, try and think like your audience. Do you find the Tweet you’ve just written interesting? Would you click or engage with it if you weren’t connected to the company? Try to answer ‘yes’ to these questions and the energy will ooze out of your account, making it an exciting and enjoyable place to be. With these ten top tips, your Twitter has the potential to be taken to the next level, whether that’s in terms of increasing your followers or improving engagement with your audience. Twitter’s come a long way in a decade and we can’t wait to see the platform evolve even more!
Who ever said a bit of competition and debate wasn’t a good thing?
Over the past two months, there have been two major news stories centred around big companies going head-to-head with one another in public.
Just this week, Amazon and The New York Times have locked horns over an article written by The Times in August about the online retailer’s work culture. The story, which was a large piece in the daily paper, resulted in an Amazon VP drafting a 1300-word essay on Medium.com, refuting the article and claims made in it. From there, The Times Executive Editor responded with an equally long post to Medium and so on.
And less than two months ago, McDonalds and Burger King had a bit of a public tiff, which began when Burger King extended the olive branch in hopes of putting their ‘burger war’ aside and creating a McWhopper to celebrate Peace Day on 21st September. It all started when Burger King launched www.mcwhopper.com that included this:
What was the response from McDonald’s, you ask?
Kind of gruff, no?
So what can local businesses learn from Amazon vs New York Times and McDonalds vs Burger King. It’s that a bit of competition and debate can lead to some tremendous exposure. By making things public, all of the businesses involved were not only widely seen on Facebook and Twitter, but news stories flooded the internet from sources like Forbes, BBC Business Insider and dozens of other national outlets.
As a marketing expert, I think a bit of friendly competition and debate is great. Not only does it keep things fresh and interesting, but it also offers a new way of getting into the public eye.
For example, in 2012, after working with SO Festival – an East Lindsey / Skegness arts & culture event – for the previous two years, we knew that putting Skegness on the national news agenda would take a bold move. We recognised that we needed to do something that would provoke a reaction, capture media’s attention and bring other seaside towns into the debate about the need for coastal resorts to market themselves.
As Brighton and Blackpool both sit above Skegness in the tourism league tables, we decided to place these controversial advertisements in their local newspapers, the Brighton Argus and Blackpool Gazette.
As expected, the newspapers refused to run the ads, but ran editorials on the campaign that showed pictures of the shocking ads. The ads also spread via social media and the story escalated from a regional news item into national story, which ran for over a week, giving SO Festival organisers, East Lindsey District Council, numerous opportunities to explain the rationale behind the ads and to discuss the issues facing traditional seaside towns, whilst also promoting SO Festival 2012.
In the end, the campaign reached over 23 million people and contributed to a 15% increase in SO Festival visitors year-on-year as a result of print and online media coverage with The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express and Observer, as well as radio and TV coverage in the south, north east and Lincolnshire as well as national exposure on The Million Pound Drop, This Morning and The Wright Show.
So how can a bit of competition give your business a boost? Well it can help you:
• Generate press coverage you may not have otherwise received
• Boost your social media following if the campaign spreads or goes viral
• Get some word-of-mouth going about your business
But, wait! Before you step into the ring with a competitor or other public figure, here are some very important things to consider first:
1) Have a reason behind your campaign Slagging off your competition just for the sake of it is an extremely terrible idea. You’ll only make yourself look like an antagonist and bully. Make sure you have a deeper underlying reason for what you’re doing. Our SO Festival campaign wasn’t just created to boost awareness for an event; it helped broach the topic of talking about the issues facing traditional seaside towns.
2) Be light-hearted in your approach The more serious you are, the less people will relate to your campaign. The general public always love a bit of banter and competition in their personal lives – whether it’s with partners, family or friends – so they can relate when the companies they love do the same. But if you’re downright mean or rude in what you’re saying, you again risk earning yourself the reputation of being a bad guy and bully. Be clever and witty – but not malicious.
3) Don’t start a battle if you’re not prepared for war Some public tiffs fizzle out before the second party has time to rebut, but, in the case of Amazon and New York Times, both parties have gone back and forth numerous times over the course of a week – turning a small battle into a small war.
4) Plan your approach Think ahead and ensure you’ve ran through all the responses you might receive once you’ve launched your campaign. Do the positives outweigh the negatives? If so, crack on and go for it you’re comfortable. But if you can’t justify the campaign or if the negative consequences are far more than the positives, it’s best to leave the idea as just that – an idea.
So there you go. A bit of friendly competition can be good for business, but don’t take it too seriously and definitely think before you speak – or else you may have some serious PR firefighting to do!
There you go. I’ve said it. Right at the start of this piece, I’ve set my stall out..
You can’t say anything in 140 characters. It’s difficult to work creatively with images and video. It’s nearly impossible to find anything useful in your Twitter stream when you follow thousands of people in order to get them to follow back.
Okay, that’s a bit harsh. Twitter has its role. I use it a lot for getting news out, pointing people to websites and, in a personal role, for finding session plans for football training.
However, I don’t think I’ve ever managed to sell anything for a client via Twitter or have meaningful and productive engagement with people interested in my clients’ services. All of that is achieved by using Facebook.
Facebook, to me, is just simply better than Twitter from a marketing perspective. Facebook allows greater creativity. It provides better analytics. Yes, it’s a business, and given recent changes to Facebook’s business model, marketers are having to pay a little to reach people, but it’s worth it.
Let’s look at what you can achieve with Facebook.
You can post more than 140 characters – so you can say more.
You can upload images, videos and audio – that people can see immediately.
You have apps that can be embedded into your Facebook page – allowing you to sell tickets for events or enabling people to sign up to newsletters quickly and easily.
You can advertise effectively – Facebook allows you to target demographics, locations and interests in a far more comprehensive way than Twitter’s fledgling ad platform does.
You can evaluate your efforts – Facebook has analytics built in (as does Twitter to be fair).
You can reach more people – Facebook is still the largest social media platform in the world.
You can survive online with just a Facebook page, you don’t have to have a website – some companies I know only have a Facebook page. It’s all they need.
What all of these factors give you is greater scope for creativity. The more creative you are, the better the chance of creating engagement.
We’ve run several Facebook campaigns. Not so long ago, we used Facebook as the platform for our Hallo’win promotion. People received a pumpkin from us and were challenged to carve it, post their pictures on our Facebook page and then ask people to Like their pimped up pumpkin. The artwork with the most likes on 31st October won! Not only did this promotion get people engaged in a fun activity, but people shared our promotion with their friends.
Just last week, we set up a Facebook page for an event that we’re helping to organise. With just one promoted post, we directed 93 people to the box office page on the event’s website and generated 30 sales. Just as important, people are still sharing our post, so that one piece of marketing activity is continuing to deliver a return.
For that very same event, we’re also able to answer people’s questions, direct them to the event website and provide customer service all within an environment they’re comfortable with.
We also have a Twitter stream, Instagram and YouTube account set up for the event. Yes, we will push our news out in 140 characters and shortened links. Yes, we will publish photos and videos. All of these social channels have their place in our campaign but for me, the one social media channel above all others that I Like the most, is Facebook.
How do you capture and sustain the interest of a potential customer in the age of information overload?
As consumers, all of our devices – from TV and tablet to PC and smartphone – are awash with blatantly promotional messaging. Most of us have now developed an inner filter. We know what genuine content looks like, and have ways of avoiding the rest, by skipping YouTube adverts, installing adblock apps and fast-forwarding TV ads on our Sky or Tivo boxes.
So how does a business break through these filters to promote itself?
Well, content marketing is a good place to start. But what exactly is it? The Content Marketing Institute defines it as: ‘The marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.’
To give you an idea, some examples of content marketing include e-books, video tutorials, audio resources, webcasts, podcasts, forums, blogs and events.
OK – so, producing resources does require a bit of time and effort, but the benefit is that people will be given the opportunity to engage with your business in a deeper and longer-lasting way. According to Demand Metric, though, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about three times as many leads.
If you’re thinking of taking the plunge and trying some of these methods yourself, here are some tips to producing content that will get you noticed, and help you build a loyal following!
Know your audience You may already have a good idea of who your target audience is and what their needs are. Evaluating your web traffic and social media engagement is a good way to do your own market research. Think quality, not quantity. You’re not just looking for the amount of casual likes and page visits, but how fully your audience is responding. Try to get a feel of what is important to your followers, and what their wider interests are. Have this in mind when you are creating content.
Don’t be overly-promotional Content marketing is not just one long sales pitch. We’ve all seen those infomercials that tell you in detail what is wrong with your life before, right at the end, suggesting a product as a remedy. Buyers will sniff this out immediately. Remember that this is a golden opportunity to develop your brand tone of voice, beyond the 140 characters of Twitter. Let them know what you’re all about!
Keep it short and sweet We know that attention spans can be short online, and several pages of text can be off-putting. But remember that memorable content does not have to be long. Instead, you can share something substantial in the form of a short video or blog post.
Provide a tangible ‘takeaway’ Give them a tip or a piece of advice – something which they can try doing themselves, using one of your resources. This is empowering and feels more natural than suggesting there is product they cannot live without.
Create a community Webinars and Twitter chats can allow you to answer questions and interact with your customer base in real time. Forums and Facebook discussion groups are a way of allowing the audience to build itself. By paying attention to these forums, you can pick out the frequently asked questions, talking points and key interests of your audience. Also, don’t forget events! Public speaking and interaction are a great way to build rapport. You may like to reserve exclusive digital content for those who attend your event!
Encourage subscription Social media is becoming more commercially-oriented, with users having to change their settings to ensure they are seeing what matters to them. So encouraging subscription has never been more important. YouTube Channels and email newsletters are great places to starts. Producing genuinely interesting, useful content will ensure your message is getting through and not going straight to junk mail.
Call in favours Have you thought about featuring an expert guest-bloggers or interviewees? This can be time-saving and give your content an extra bit of cachet. Do your research and find guests who would appeal to your audience. Sometimes a fee might be attached, but contra deals are great way of reaching each others’ audience.
Have a call to action So where does the buyer go next? Where do they find similar content? How do they explore the topic in-depth? Having relevant web-links, preferably to your own content, is a good starting point. A lot of websites will now automatically generate those links underneath an article.
Cross promote Make sure your content does not just sit on your website, gathering dust. Share it on social media or try putting promotional codes on printed marketing materials, encouraging people to go online. Another idea would be to film events and post them to your website and social media channels.
Make sure your design is on-point You might have a very compelling message, but if your design is not up to scratch, few people will take notice. Ensure that your online and offline marketing content has consistent branding which looks professional and sums up what you stand for.
As you can see, marketing in this way can be not only be creatively fulfilling, it can also help you to form a deeper connection to your buyers!