Stethoscope on laptop keyboard

Twitter’s Changing. Are You?

Twitter recently announced changes to its icon and banner sizing. On top of changing the dimensions of the images themselves, they have made their visible area 1260 x 330 pixels, not counting what your profile picture covers.

As a result, you will likely have to resize your images and maybe even redesign them. While you’re at it, what better time to do a brand audit and evaluate your visual presence across social media?

PROSAR has created an infographic to help ensure your new and improved designs meet specifications. Do keep in mind the visible area could be smaller than actual dimensions and keep important branding to the centre of the images. Here are some tips for conducting your brand audit:

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1- Look at All Your Properties

This will help you determine what the best visual language for your brand is. While most social properties follow the general principle of “square profile image, wide but short banner”, some properties have much smaller profile images (such as Instagram, not to mention the size of icons within the feed itself) while others are rectangular. You want to create a design that can seamlessly integrate across channels you’re actively using.

This is also a good time to evaluate the usefulness of each social channel and either revitalize or cut any that have lapsed.

2- Ask Where You Want to Go

Your brand should reflect your audience, current position, and future aspirations. It could be you’ve had to grow your company slowly as you start out, or your direction has changed. As you evolve, your brand should evolve with you.

Ill-fitting imagery to your current situation will make your social media properties hard to recognize and inspire less confidence. Refreshing your brand regularly to reflect your current market position helps you stay current and relatable.

3- Look at Trends

While it’s never advised to follow every trend to the letter, looking at what other brands are doing can give you an idea of what to take advantage of and what’s here to stay. It can also give you a point to stand out by going against the grain.

You don’t want to be formulaic, but you do want to be current. Even the most timeless brands need updates every once in awhile.

Overall

Social media changes are a perfect opportunity to refresh your brand. Take the little extra time to create an engaging, fresh approach to continue engaging with your target audience.

3 Tips on How to Weather the Economic Storm in Your Marketing Plan

Economic forces in Canada and changing business conditions have left us all concerned about our existing marketing plans. While changes may be necessary to adjust to this new order, some may be tempted to abandon their marketing plans entirely. While every business is unique, here are three points of marketing advice to consider:

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1) Don’t Panic

Panic is an emotional response that usually doesn’t serve a business well when clear thinking is needed. Pundits agree that panic reactions are exacerbating a jittery business world and have only contributed to its problems.

A panic reaction may be to excclude marketing efforts as part of cost cutting to keep a business running. I would argue that if rising costs, lower profits, and decreasing customer base need anything, it would be new prospects and additional new business. Marketing is the spark to drive new business your way. New markets can’t be efficiently uncovered and exploited without marketing of some sort.

2) Do Change

Someone once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same think over and over and expecting different results. In today’s economy this is particularly appropriate. If the results of your existing plan need to improve, change is necessary. Be it a wholesale change or minor tweaks, at least you will open an opportunity for different results.

Persistence, while a strong personality trait, needs to be viewed differently in the context of a nimble and relevant marketing plan. How about persistently tweaking your marketing strategy and tactics until you arrive at something that works?

3) Don’t Wait

The Canadian business landscape is rife with casualties that took booming markets for granted and sat shell-shocked waiting for things to improve. (Personally, I don’t want to be a victim, I’d rather be a fighter.)

Trying to wait things out and battening down all the expense hatches may not be an option for many businesses. Many large enterprises have deep enough pockets for mass layoffs and then a switch to “sleep” mode, ready to rise again when things improve. For medium enterprises, change is needed now and a recharged marketing plan should be front and centre. Why wait if you can’t afford to wait?

Conclusion

Rather than panicking and totally stopping any marketing plans completely, now is the time to review and refresh your plans to meet changing conditions head on. Not to say that dollars shouldn’t be carefully spent, but in most cases new customers and additional business are the key to success, or at least, to survival.

A sound business strategy includes marketing.  “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”.

Looking to implement or change a marketing plan for 2016? Check out Donna Kind’s Planning for 2016: Inbound Trends & Patterns Worth Noticing.

Is Astroturfing Smart Content Generation?

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We live in a time when most consumers, for both B2C and B2B, search the Internet to find information and solutions. They may not buy the product or service online, but they’ll often know exactly what they want to buy before they contact the supplier.

This demand for information has fostered a new era of content generation; and in a myriad of formats: blogs, articles, press releases, white papers, case studies, PDFs, interviews, chats, posts, texts, infographics, animated graphics, photos, slide shows, webinars, RSS feeds, videos, podcasts… An overwhelming and never-ending deluge of content designed to entertain, inform and educate (and ultimately persuade) you. Your expectation, as a consumer, to find an abundance of relevant and available information has spawned more information in the past decade than the world has ever produced in its history. This content generation is all for you, do you feel special?

Marketers would like you to feel special. They would especially like you to heed their content, see the wisdom in their information and subscribe to their solution. But, more often than not these days, you’re not listening. And, it’s not just the deafening cacophony of all this content shouting for your attention. Many consumers aren’t listening because they are distrustful of branded sources of information.

Corporations are working hard to build their brand online and earn your attention, maybe even your loyalty. While many consumers are skeptical of corporate motives, preferring instead to place their faith in the online reviews posted by strangers. The Internet has democratized the age of information.

What’s a corporation to do to cut through the noise and gain your attention, when your ear is tuned to other consumers rather than corporate messaging? It may be tempting to help sway public opinion with some guided content masquerading as consumer-posted blogs, comments or testimonials.

From Wikipedia: Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participants.

Essentially, astroturfing is corporate content posing as unbiased, public support to positively position a product, service or brand. This is done via a fake blog (flog) or website, fake reviews, endorsements, comments, etc.

Some marketers may simply see this as a form of online guerilla marketing. Marketing is about persuasion after all, what could be better than packaging information in a manner that will readily be accepted by the targeted audience? If the information is correct and true, does it matter how it is presented to the public?

I believe that it does, and that consumers see it this way as well. Astroturfing is disingenuous; it is the opposite of grassroots support, which is a primary objective of most branding efforts. Along with n aspect of information democracy, the Internet has facilitated greater transparency. Consumers may not expect more from their brands, but now they can often determine how well brands are living up to their messaging. It is incumbent on corporations and marketers to proceed with integrity. When it comes to building awareness, trust and positioning a brand — fake it ‘til you make it is not a good philosophy.

Engaging in astroturfing is misleading at best, and never a good way to try and build a consumer relationship. Establishing a strong brand and earning consumers’ attention and loyalty takes time and money to do it right. The corporations that invest in insightful and worthwhile content, who listen to their audience and invite a dialogue, who are genuine in serving their consumers’ needs — these are the brands that will rise above the cacophony and build loyal relationships.

For some guidelines on creating good content, check out Donna Kind’s Back to School: Content Generation 101.

For some thoughts on using social media to engage your consumers, check out Alexa Oliver’s Customer Service Is Social.

What are your thoughts on astroturfing; where do you draw the line when creating content for consumers?

Sharing Across Demographics

There’s a lot of talk about how to gain traction in social sharing spheres. “Engagement” has an almost buzzword quality to it, something important but you’re never quite sure what it means. It’s a very broad term that encompasses a large number of best practices, from including photography to what time you send out your posts.

But have you considered that you should engage differently based on age?

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The Numbers

Adweek published an infographic outlining how sharing changes by demographic and social channel. While there are trends in the data — those over 70 were the least likely to engage period— there are some nuances that can influence your social strategy.

Facebook is the overall most trusted media source, outranking newspapers and TV for branded information. But if you’re looking to reach the 18-22 market, you might want to consider YouTube or even Snapchat.

Surprisingly, the 18-22 market and 23-30 market engage with branded content much differently than each other, and even more differently than their non-millennial counterparts. 18-22 year-olds were tied for second in answering “I am unlikely to share any of the above with my network,” meanwhile 23-30 year-olds ranked last in agreeing with that statement.

For marketers, this simply emphasizes researching your audience before you dive in with the strategy you think will work. While some principles of engagement can apply across the board, the nuance of working with millennials and digital natives can be difficult to grasp.

What to Do About It

Your online marketing strategy should reflect your audience, but this data reveals just how nuanced “your audience” is. Even within millennials there’s a divide around mid twenties.

Some of the trust statistics might also come as a surprise, especially with branded blogs ranking so low. While this doesn’t devalue the importance of a blog, it does point to needing diversity in your content generation strategy.

The younger your audience, the more you must base your online content strategy around them. Social media has always been about relationships, but this is doubly true for those who have grown up on the Internet. Sales tactics tend to make them mistrustful, and they want content that serves them instead of feeling manipulated.

This makes inbound principles even more critical. You have to delight your audience for them to keep engaging and trust your brand. Obvious sales tactics are out for the younger audience skews; and since they are slowly but surely taking over the market, you can’t afford to be left behind.