It was absolutely hilarious, if you ask me. It was just a few weeks ago, on a Tuesday night (October 4). Two men vying for the second highest office in the land, Mike Pence and Tim Kaine, were debating each other before an audience of millions and ...
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Cats, Dogs, Brands and Social Media

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2017-02-03_2212It was absolutely hilarious, if you ask me.

It was just a few weeks ago, on a Tuesday night (October 4). Two men vying for the second highest office in the land, Mike Pence and Tim Kaine, were debating each other before an audience of millions and frankly, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

I was looking at a Facebook Live video being broadcast on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’s Facebook page that was showing the television broadcast of the event. However, in front of the screen was a large pen full of cute, little kittens divided by two separate carpets, one red and the other blue, with a box of kitty litter in the middle labelled, “Undecided.”

I was literally laughing out loud.

If you’re looking for attention from the masses, you can’t go wrong by hitching your social media wagon to anything to do with this year’s tumultuous election season, of course. All eyes have been on that runaway freight train of a news story. It’s been a perfect newsjacking opportunity if ever there was one.

But the time and circumstances have also been quite rare. At least let’s hope so.

What’s always in vogue are cats and dogs.

After all, pretty much anything to do with politics is a hot-button issue. Cats and dogs? Not so much. People love their pets, not necessarily their elected officials. And the savviest social media marketers will try to take advantage of this fact.

For instance, here are 10 ways businesses and brands – excluding any pet-related brands, per se – include cats and dogs in their social media to attract an even bigger audience…

1. TODAY Show on Instagram

Charlie was very excited for #KingsOfLeon! #TODAYShow #KingsOfLeonTODAY (photo via @photonate)

A photo posted by TODAY (@todayshow) on


What a cute picture! What a great idea! Add a puppy to the cast of regulars and you have a win-win all-around. Charlie follows in the paw prints of his predecessor, Wrangler, who left the Today Show to “work” as service dog for Guiding Eyes for the Blind https://www.guidingeyes.org/. Charlie is being trained to be one of America’s VetDogs http://www.vetdogs.org/. In the meantime, he’s taking advantage of more than his fair share of photo ops on the set.

2. Boston Red Sox on Twitter

Not that the Red Sox need any help in filling seats, but this sure is a great way to attract a few fans, including those of the four-feet variety, to the ballpark. If every dog has his or her day, what could be better than spending that day at Fenway Park (even if there isn’t a game being played)?

3. Best Western on Instagram

"This is your 38th selfie this morning, John… Ok, one more!” Leave a hilarious caption for this travel dog. #TravelCaptionSaturday

A photo posted by Best Western® Hotels & Resorts (@bestwestern) on


I love the fact that Best Western made the dog the star of this photo. How can you resist looking at it, never mind wanting to caption it? Man’s best friend is a marketer’s best friend, too.

4. Ralph Lauren on Twitter


Thanks to the emergence of social media and the ubiquity of pop culture, every day is a holiday. And the savviest brands among us make sure they’ve included themselves in that celebration, newsjacking the conversation about it on social media in some way, shape or form as Ralph Lauren so smoothly does here.

5. Katy Perry on Facebook

She’s a big rock star and a huge brand who, according to Trackalytics http://www.trackalytics.com/the-most-liked-facebook-fanpages/page/1/, has the 25th most-liked page on Facebook. She’s Katy Perry, her fans are KatyCats and this is a purr-fect example of how well felines play on social media.

6. Target on Twitter

Demonstrating a knack for newsjacking, the team behind Target’s Twitter account does a great job of taking advantage of a trending hashtag not only to be cute, but to drive traffic back to the store’s pet costumes for sale before Halloween.

7. 29 Sudbury on Facebook


Happy Hour may be illegal in the state of Massachusetts, but no one said anything about Yappy Hour. What a great idea! Not only is this a very clever way for 29 Sudbury to attract customers, it’s an excellent example of cause marketing, promoting your business while also raising funds for a good cause.

8. Volkswagen on Twitter


In this clever video, Volkswagen jumped on the International Cat Day bandwagon and used a handful of fluffy felines to demonstate how its Driver Alert System works, showing them springing to attention whenever the warning bell sounds.

9. American Express on Instagram


Blending in nicely with the Instagram environment, American Express includes a clever, colloquial caption along with this picture of a dog and his or her shipment of treats, toys and Tchochkies from BarkBox. This post has got it all going on – product placement, hashtags, URL, you name it – and nearly 1,000 likes to show for it.

10. Gemmyo on Twitter

I don’t know what a pink cat has to do with precious stones, but apparently this French company’s advertising is as innovative as its phenomenally popular line of personalized, made-to-order jewelry.

Note: This post, “Cats, Dogs, Brands and Social Media,” was originally published on ClickZ on October 27, 2016, here, on LinkedIn on December 14, 2016, here — and a version of it was published on the Overdrive Interactive blog on November 3, 2016, here.

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Paying to Play on Social Media

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2017-01-07_2023Rumors to the contrary, it’ll cost you if you want to run a successful social media program.

It’ll cost you both time and money, not to mention all the skills and experience you’ll need to help ensure a positive outcome.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no more gravy train when it comes to social media success. There is simply too much competition among businesses and brands for eyeballs and wallets for any of these channels to be able to afford to give you a free ride.

Organic reach has declined precipitously. Algorithms rule.

You’ve got to pay if you want to play – and win – on social media.

Seriously, have you looked at the statistics lately?

Unless you’re paying to promote them, you’re lucky nowadays if your messages are reaching in the vicinity of 5% of your audience on Facebook and much less than that on Twitter.

Unless you’re a celebrity or an iconic brand name, the chances of your voice being heard are few and far between.

All is not lost, however. Far from it. Social media is still in the throes of its emergence as the biggest revolution in communications since the printing press.

Being active on these newfangled online channels is not an option, it’s a necessity.

Think of social media like you would TV and radio. From building the audiences to providing the lion’s share of the content, the channels themselves have done a lot of the work already for their advertisers.

While you’re not interrupting anyone with a commercial announcement on social media, you are piggybacking on the popularity of a particular medium. Not only do you need a steady cadence of organic content scheduled to be disseminated at all hours of the day, you need to promote at least some of your posts in order to reach the right people at the right time with words and pictures they simply can’t ignore.

For those who are looking for you, make sure they can find you. Be conspicuous in your presence on social media with a variety of quality content that is optimized for search, sales, marketing, PR and branding.

But don’t take a strong presence alone for granted. It’s simply not enough anymore. Don’t overlook the importance of paying to play on these channels.

On Twitter, your first step should be to enable Twitter Cards, of course, which make it possible for you to provide a rich, robust media experience to your audience, whether you’re advertising or not.

Once that’s behind you, run campaigns to increase followers, engagement, clicks and traffic. There are many different campaign types you can deploy there, but one of the easiest might be Twitter’s Quick Promote tool, which will help you put your very best content in front of a much larger audience in a short period of time.

On Facebook, pay to promote your page and posts. Drive fans to your website. Attract an audience for a special event. Raise awareness of your products and services. Find local customers. Increase the number of app installs or white paper downloads. Move your constituents to take action in some way, shape or form that deepens their relationship with you and your brand.

LinkedIn. Instagram. YouTube. Pinterest. It’s pretty much the same no matter which social media channel you use. Choose your audience, determine your budget and go full speed ahead. In most cases, it’s like bidding at an auction. You’re deciding how much you’re willing to pay to have people who are predisposed to doing business with you see your ad and react to it. You’re in the driver’s seat.

How much should you be budgeting for these initiatives? In addition to all of the required time and resources, both human and technological, you’ve got to pony up, but there’s no magic number. Your mileage will vary.

According to this article, “social media marketing has accounted for about 11.7% of marketing budgets this year,” but how much of that exactly was allocated toward advertising remains unclear. We do know that worldwide spending on social media advertising is projected to eclipse $30 billion this year.

It doesn’t matter how much you yourself spend, though, as long as you are at least heading in that direction, beginning to carve out a modicum of dollars to be allocated toward advertising on social media. After all, if you’re not paying to play now, you’ll find yourself falling quickly behind your competition on these channels, if you’re not out of the picture already.

Note: This post, “Paying to Play on Social Media,” was originally published on ClickZ on September 28, 2016, here, on LinkedIn on November 7, 2016, here — and a version of it was posted on the Overdrive Interactive blog on October 6, 2016, here.

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Six Reasons Why Direct Marketers Should be Swooning Over Social Media

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2016-12-09_2145I’m not going to lie. I get it. I really do get it.

As someone who earned a livelihood for many years writing copy almost exclusively for direct mail and email, I totally understand why some dyed-in-the-wool direct marketers are still on the fence about using social media.

Tweeting, blogging and sharing selfies on Instagram just doesn’t have the same appeal to them as launching one of their own targeted, timely campaigns with a strong offer geared toward a qualified audience to which quantifiable metrics can be applied.

They’re concerned about ROI and reputation. They’re afraid of the risk.

I understand. I feel their pain. After all, I had the same questions and doubts myself when I began blogging in 2004. I wondered how social media was going to blend into the marketing mix effectively. I dealt with the same steep learning curve and challenges. I had to convince my colleagues and clients that time spent on what was then a newfangled means of digital communications didn’t mean forgoing traditional best practices.

It was an uphill battle to which there seemed no end.

That was then, this is now, yet I still find myself shouting from the rooftops sometimes that I have seen the future of direct marketing and it includes social media.

Hello.

It’s not like I’m suggesting you use social media to the exclusion of other communication channels at your disposal. Not at all. I’m talking about putting together cohesive, seamlessly coordinated integrated direct marketing programs that just don’t give short shrift to the relatively new kid on the block.

I’m saying give social media a seat at the table, maybe even at the head of the table every once in while.

I’m asking for a bigger piece of the marketing spend pie.

Social media – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, you name it – goes hand in hand with direct marketing. Believe me. It’s got it all going on when it comes to building enduring, mutually benefical relationships between like-minded parties.

Here are six reasons why direct marketers should be swooning over social media:

1. Creativity. Over the years, I have written literally thousands of tweets, each of which is akin to a headline, subject line or even a small ad. Anyone may be able to string together something coherent in 140 characters or less, but not everyone can make those characters move readers to action. That’s why creativity is so important on social media. Copy. Design. Visuals. You name it. Every element of not just a tweet, but all kinds of content – from videos to infographics, blog posts to status updates – needs to be massaged and noodled on to the point where the odds are in its favor of standing out among the clutter of competing messages.

2. Segmentation. While it may be difficult, if not impossible to message prospects by name and address on social media, you can target your efforts quite precisely via a host of paid advertising options. Demographics such as gender, age, geographical location, interests, industries, even company names are readily available. You can also upload the email addresses of your existing customers to most social media channels and find them that way, not to mention how many opportunities you have to join the conversation as a brand and connect with your constituents one-on-one.

3. Offers. One of the distinguishing characteristics of direct marketing versus other forms of advertising is the call to action (CTA) that prompts prospects to read, download, install, watch or even buy something. Which is exactly what direct marketers like me love so much about social media. Branding is incorporated into our activities as is PR, customer service and the like, but our main objective is invariably driving clicks and conversions. What we have to offer are products and services, news and information, knowledge and advice, music and entertainment, you name it, and what we want is for audience members to take some form of action in return.

4. Timing. This is where social media has a decided competitive advantage over traditional marketing channels. It’s not hard at all to determine when and where people are particularly active, never mind how much you can see for yourself by simply jumping on the networks. Using Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics and other third party tools such as Audiense, Mention, Tweriod, Buffer and Buzzsumo, you can strategically schedule content to be published when your audience is most likely to see it. You can also post on the fly, sharing content extemporaneously during special occasions, events, whenever and wherever the mood strikes or opportunity calls.

5. Engagement. Yet another attribute of direct marketing is the fact that it is supposed to be a two-way street, that is, for every outgoing pitch there should be some degree of reciprocity. In fact, a campaign isn’t considered successful without those on the receiving end responding favorably to you in some way, shape or form. Sounds a lot like social media, if you ask me, where the sole purpose of communications is to elicit engagement among a practically infinite sea of consumers and brands, friends and foes. You might say that engaging with others on social media is analogous to returning an order form or calling a toll-free phone number in the terrestrial world. Personal or professional, it’s the beginning of a relationship that hopefully will grow.

6. Measurement. Where the rubber meets the road in direct marketing is where more attention than you may realize is focused in social media. Content counts for something. But results are worth a lot more. Never mind simply leads and sales. From impressions to clicks, likes to comments, followers to subscribers, every possible metric is tracked, measured, analyzed and put into report form. What works well in the social sphere is recycled and repurposed, while what doesn’t is history.

Note: This post, “Six Reasons Why Direct Marketers Should Be Swooning Over Social Media,” was originally published on ClickZ on September 16, 2016, here, on LinkedIn on October 9, 2016, here — and a version of it was posted on the Overdrive Interactive blog on September 12, 2016, here.

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3 Reasons Why Snapchat is Such a Big Social Media Hit

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snapchatDon’t look now, but the last bastion of social media for millennials, generation Z and anyone else in their teens or early twenties has pretty much reached the tipping point.

Yup, Snapchat is about to go mainstream.

Founded four years ago by three Stanford University students, this mobile photo and video messaging app earned a rather edgy, even controversial, reputation along the way to mass acceptance, but those days are gone. Snapchat has grown up.

You heard me. Once associated almost exclusively with teenagers and risky behavior in front of the camera, Snapchat is now being used by businesses and brands as a cool, contemporary way to call attention to their existence in an increasingly crowded and competitive marketplace.

The numbers alone are staggering. Over 150 million people use Snapchat on a daily basis, a larger number than the 140 million who interact with Twitter every day. And while Snapchat is clearly a huge hit with the younger crowd, its awareness and adoption levels among older Americans is increasing at a surprisingly fast pace. Not to mention how pleased brands have been with the effectiveness of ads on the app.

From General Electric to National Geographic, Cisco to Domino’s, Target to Target Bell, a small army of brands have already jumped on the Snapchat bandwagon, more than happy to have the opportunity to toot their own horns in front of a new audience and position themselves as being more creative, inventive, authentic and hip.

Heck, even the White House has an account on Snapchat.

What’s the big deal? I’m not going to lie. If your job has anything to do with marketing, advertising, PR or publishing, you shouldn’t have to ask. Download the app instead and, well, snap to it. After all, we’re talking about one of the most popular social media apps right now. Chop, chop. Time is of the essence. You don’t want to be left behind.

Wait, why is Snapchat such a huge hit on social media? Ask Instagram. Why do you think they recently came out with Stories, a feature nearly identical to Snapchat’s that allows you to string together a series of photos and videos that will disappear after 24 hours? It’s called following the leader.

Fact is, there are a ton of reasons why Snapchat is all the rage right now. Let’s talk about just three that are quite obvious to me.

1. It facilitates creativity. Perhaps the most complicated channel on social media is also the most sophisticated from a user experience perspective. Never mind the fact that you practically need a glossary to keep up with the language of the network. On Snapchat, there are a seemingly endless variety of filters, lenses, stickers, captions and other special effects to leverage to make a relatively ordinary picture (er, Snap) extraordinary. You also have at your disposal such features as Stories (a compilation of your favorite photos and videos in chronological order that are saved for 24 hours), Memories (a collection of Snaps you’ve saved indefinitely instead of letting them disappear after they were viewed), Chat and more.

2. It encourages spontaneity. Real time is big time on social media, and with all due respect to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like, there may be no better way to capture and share a moment with your online audience instantaneously than Snapchat. There’s Periscope, Facebook Live and other live-streaming video services, but there’s nothing quite like snapping a picture or video, adding some fantastically fun stickers to it, a filter like Face Swap (if you’re so bold), emojis, a little text for context and who knows what else before sharing it with an exclusive group of friends who more often than not will actually look at it. Ask anyone who’s already on Snapchat. Users develop an addictive, almost inexplicable compulsion to share raw footage with this app.

3. It fosters camaraderie. This is Snapchat’s biggest advantage over the competition. The communities formed by its users are close-knit and exceedingly loyal. As the famous Shakespeare line goes, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave….” Although in this case, no one is trying to deceive anyone. Impress, maybe. Entertain, definitely. Personal intentions aside, brands can use Snapchat to inform, educate, capture and convert. You can take advantage of the tight bonds that are established quite easily on this platform by earning the attention and trust of an engaged audience, one that has so much passion for your products and services that they’ll not only do business with you, they’ll evangelize on your behalf.

While I’m not hear to tell you how to make money on Snapchat, I will say that it is a ridiculously popular place to hang right now, a place where many brands and businesses have already set up shop for advertising purposes. Like a great, big land grab back in the good, old days, if you want to establish a solid presence in this particular space, you want to move quickly. Who’s in?

Note: This post, “3 Reasons Why Snapchat is Such a Big Social Media Hit,” was originally published on ClickZ on August 4, 2016, here, on LinkedIn on September 12, 2016, here — and a version of it was posted on the Overdrive Interactive blog on August 11, 2016, here.

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3 Things Marketers Can Learn from Lokai on Social Media

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lokai-and-fenway-parkIf you think social media is a big deal now, you’ve seen nothing yet. Social media is poised to take over the world, or at least it’s heading in that direction.

By 2018, projections are that some 2.44 billion people will be using social media in one way, shape or form. That’ll be about one third of the world’s population.

Yes, indeed, whether you’re talking about Facebook or Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram, social media user sizes are huge. You? Not so much. You’re just one lone brand, personal or professional, in a vast sea of accounts, each and every one of which is trying desperately to stand out among a cacophony of content.

With the half-life of a tweet less than a half hour and complex, ever-changing algorithms on most major channels undermining reach and engagement, marketers who don’t have to work harder than ever to use social media effectively are few and far between.

Unless whatever it is they happen to be marketing has got it all going on like Lokai.

Even if you haven’t heard the name of this brand, chances are you’ve seen it being worn on someone’s wrist. It’s a simple, silicone bracelet that has been the latest rage and fashion accessory of famous athletes, celebrities and everyday people like me and you for the last few years. And while this brand may not have to work as hard as others to succeed on social media, its popularity may have as much to do with how well it works the crowd – both online and in real life – as it does with how lucky it is to have an outstanding product.

Here are three things any marketer, B2C or B2B, SMB or enterprise-level organization, can learn from Lokai’s activities on social media and be a standout themselves…

1. Tell a good story. People are curious and inquisitive, if not downright skeptical. There’s a backstory to every product or service that your audience doesn’t just want to hear, but needs to hear. It’s this story that makes your brand more genuine, unique, credible and believable. Trust is something that is earned, not given. No brand is born overnight. In Lokai’s case, it was the brainchild of young entrepreneur, Steven Izen, who while still a student at Cornell University, came up with the idea for the bracelet. Inspired by his grandfather’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, the black bead contains mud from the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth, to represent the sadness Steven felt at the time. The white bead carries water from the highest point on Earth, Mount Everest. The name of the bracelet is a takeoff on the Hawaiian word, Lokai, which means unity and the combination of opposites, the hopefulness we feel when things aren’t going well and the humility we should exhibit when we’re on a roll. Do you have a story to tell to your own audience? How would it begin? Where would it end?

2. Build a strong community. Modern marketer extraordinaire Seth Godin wrote about it in his 2004 book, Tribes. Speakers at a GaggleAMP conference I recently attended at Bentley University preached about it. Popular rock bands have had them for years. Whether you call it a tribe, a gaggle or a fan club, you need to build your own tightknit community of people who live, breathe and adore whatever it is you have to offer, people who like to talk amongst themselves about what makes your product or service so special, people who are unabashedly proud to show off whatever you have to offer to their own personal networks. These are your very best customers, those who are going to gloat, advocate and evangelize on behalf of your brand. Lokai has them in celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Cam Newton, Paul Wesley and Gigi Hadad – each of whom has been photographed wearing the cool, newfangled braclets – in addition to literally countless others, who they celebrate and embrace on both their website here and on social media everywhere. Who are your devotees and how do you reward them for their loyalty to your brand?

Cultural desert – who's at #coachella?! Thanks @shelbypine

A photo posted by live lokai (@livelokai) on

3. Have a great cause. Many brands struggle to find any semblance of their own soul, if they even have one, never mind to actually use it to their advantage in their marketing campaigns. Yet like sharing a good story, baring your soul for your audience to see can be especially good for business. Associating yourself with a cause worth supporting betrays the human, compassionate side of your business, the side that may appeal to your constituency as much as your products and services. It shows you have a kind soul, if not a good heart, too. In Lokai’s case, 10% of bracelet sales’ net profits are “dedicated to giving back to the community thorugh a variety of charitable alliances.” Different, limited-edition colored bracelets associated with specific charities – such as Oceana, Make-A-Wish and The Alzheimer’s Association – are also rolled out from time to time, creating a strong sense of urgency around the buying process. When all is said and done, cause-associated social media marketing can provide a big boost to sales, and certainly can serve as a win-win business model. What nonprofit organizations mean the most to you and your colleagues? How can you do well by doing good?

Note: This post, “Three Things Marketers Can Learn from Lokai on Social Media,” was originally published on ClickZ on July, 2016, here, on LinkedIn Pulse on August 14, 2016, here — and a version of it was posted on the Overdrive Interactive blog on July 19, 2016, here.

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