Social Media Q & A: Influencers, Channels, & Trends

Ah, social media.

My BFF, my Bae, my profession. For the past 11 years, I’ve felt like a bit of a trailblazer. A pioneer of such. But, not one of those old-school pioneers making their way across the plains and the Rockies in covered wagons… more Jean-Luc Picard in a space ship traversing far off solar systems.

Looking back to the very first time social media became a part of ‘what I do’ I clearly remember thinking that, should I go down the route of learning to master the channels (spoiler: no one can master ALL THE CHANNELS), that a) I would be in a super minority in a world of traditional advertising and PR & b) each day would mean I’d have to be more & more clever with how I showed brands the long-term benefit of storytelling & connection in new channels.

Also of note, Cass: if you take on this job for the long-haul, you’ll always be a bringer of change (which makes people feel uncomfortable at best, threatened usually), & you won’t make any big bucks for a wee while. Okay? OKAY!

Fast forward to today, and the below is Q&A I took part in recently. In it, you’ll see straight off the bat that I am still so, so, so excited by, & passionate about, the power of social media. After years of diving into the guts of how digital platforms, websites, traditional media, and emerging trends fit in the great puzzle of marketing & storytelling – I still get out of bed read to learn, ready to share, & ready to see who will make an impact (& how).

Below I talk not simply channels, but more broadly around building your personal brand, emerging trends, and the importance of imbuing humanity into everything a a company does. I loved putting aside some time to think about the state of social media as it is in this moment, after having been a part of the ‘movement’ over the past decade.

Both professionally & personally, I love (YES! LOVE!) social & digital media. I love how the world has become so much more connected. And, how creativity, kindness, & empathy has come to bind us together most of the time. I could probably write a novel worth of answers for each question below (perhaps I will someday) – but for now I’ve tried to keep everything a bit more succinct.

Enjoy!

And, ask questions if you’ve got any. I love a curly question or three.

Thanks,
Cass


You’ve got a large reach and unique personal brand, for candidates looking to create their own personal brand – what would you say is the best way of going about this? And what benefit does this bring?

This is a big question to answer in a few lines. In short, creating your personal brand online & being unique is easy: there’s only one of you!

Depending on your personal & professional goals in a very saturated digital and social media ecosystem – you need to define fairly early how you’ll present yourself, who you’ll be talking to, and what you want an audience to take away/do when interacting with you online. B2B, B2C, and beyond are all inherently similar in that you’re a human talking to, and hoping to influence, other humans.

As a writer & photographer (by both trade & passion) – the hunger to learn & create is inbuilt in my DNA. I’m not afraid to be vulnerable when I need to be. Curiosity & passion drive me forward daily. The innate desire continually learn & adapt is the secret sauce of success in any field.

Also, my rule of thumb for the past decade of fumbling my way through social media (and then becoming an expert) is to be careful in what you post. Be yourself, by all means, have your own voice & brand – but act as if your parents or CEO will see every tweet, every post you send out. Being able to check yourself strategically will ensure that your personal brand goes from strong to stronger over time & grows alongside you.

I recently came across your blog and saw a running theme by the way you talk about social media – “ I kept talking passionately about community and the returns in the long run.” How does this mindset influence your content creation?

Every single post I’ve ever written, created, or curated on behalf of a brand has been with the end recipient in mind. We sell to people, not to clicks or lists of email addresses. To create great stories that engage & hold an audience is magic.

And, it’s not overly complex magic, either. Knowing your audience is easier than ever in our world of insights, but we sometimes overlook creativity and lean on machine learning.

I’m all for clever ads, creative social executions, and for actual heart at the center of community conversations. And, we have to remember that brand is all about the long run. It’s wooing customers & becoming a part of their lives – not the other way around.

I quite often say to my team at work “take off your marketing hat & put on your normal person hat” – ask yourself these questions:

  • Would this resonate with YOU if you were the target audience?
  • Does your content tell a story?
  • Is there an emotive or psychological trigger to get someone to act or react to your content?
  • And, most importantly, what benefit is this bringing to the person consuming your content?

What are your thoughts on the emerging trend of social media influencers?

This is another subject I could literally write a novel on. First and foremost, I don’t think influencers are emerging, or a trend. Think of Nike & Michael Jordan. In my mind’s eye I see Mike & his logo. I remember his college colours (white & baby blue), & I see his smiling face.

Everyone wanted to be like Mike when I was a kid – and we all wanted to wear his shoes just so a bit of the cool-factor from Michael could rub off on us through our feet. That’s the pull of influence.

It’s social currency, it’s tapping into emotions, & it’s corralling popularity in a way that isn’t selling out. In fact, brands have utilised the power of influencers since time immortal. All that has changed are the platforms. With social media now so saturated with UGC & content from anyone who has a smart phone, more and more people are calling themselves influencers – when they’re not.

The idea of macro influencers & using celebrities as a sweet-fix to drive quick engagement with brands isn’t an idea I buy into. I firmly believe in the power of longevity and a genuine relationship between influencer & brand over time to ensure a truly symbiotic relationship between brand and influencer – not to mention the consumer who needs to believe the message and the people telling stories on behalf of a brand.

When we talk about micro influencers, things start to get really exciting. I do not believe for one second that, just because you may be on the tele or radio or have a YouTube channel, that you’re a good influencer.

In fact, micro influencers are the people who really do the hard work when it comes to selling. They’re the WOM (word of mouth) power-horses of the digital age, and there’s huge opportunity for brands to work well with micro influencers globally & regionally to create magic.

With a wealth of social media experience under your belt, what has been the most pivotal lesson you have learnt?

Keep humans, human emotions, and authenticity at the forefront of everything you do. The beauty of social media is that brands not only get to hear from their customers, they also get to interact with them on a human level – tearing down boundaries of the past that existed in expensive, traditional media.

If you work empathy, fun, education, and information into your social media strategy you’ll be far, far ahead of the curve. Also, from a personal brand perspective, remember to interact in the way you want to be interacted with.

If someone sends you a message, asks a question, or wants to reach out – be there & make the time to replying. The art of social media is the art of socialising. The same rules apply for conversations IRL as conversations online.

What do you think are the key social media trends that will prevail or emerge in 2018?

Live video. It’ll be powerful, powerful, powerful… more so than it is now. Why? Because large platforms like Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter are already all on board & already evolving the tech to involve more people in more places more often.

We’re a bit behind in the NZ Market in utilising live video for brands (and that’s okay!) – but I have a very firm belief that we’ll catch up very soon. It’ll be the brands that start doing live well, now, that seize on this opportunity that grow connections more quickly than those who don’t try.

Getting the basics right & not being afraid to just jump in and get some learning under our belts will be the way forward. Some hints? Try out Instagram live. Watch how influencers & other world brands are utilising the platform. Hop onto Youtube and watch Hannah Hart livestream to her community. She’s a wizard, as are the members of her community.

You’ll learn something new each time. And learning + evolving = winning.
Promise. 🙂

 

For the original link to this story, check out the Razzbri site here.

Social Media Is Dead, Long Live Social Media

A few evenings ago, I had the immense pleasure of sharing a room with about 70 local digital and social media minds to talk about the ever fascinating topic of Social Media ROI. I’ll be honest and tell you this: I stopped going to most social media gatherings centered around this topic a long time ago because I feel like I’ve been there, done that.

We’ve hashed, re-hashed, and re-re-hashed the subject a million times as an industry to seemingly no avail. Trying to find a ‘golden measure’ of social media success is oftentimes akin to hitting your head against a brick wall. The brick wall doesn’t budge. But your head does. And, all you’re left with is an achy melon and the knowledge that bashing yourself against an inanimate object for over a decade isn’t good for anyone involved. Especially you.

That said, I went along the other night for a few reasons. Firstly, I knew the person putting on the talk. She’s a cool cat, and amazing at what she does – if anyone could draw interested, interesting, and engaged people to the venue to really get down to nuts and bolts and talk, she could. And, she did!

The night itself was great. The venue was funky, and open plan – mostly brick, too (yikes! protect your heads!) The speakers for the evening were engaging before, during, and after the proceedings. Dialogue fascinating. And the crowd asked important, evolved questions. Yee haw! Though we all took angles in talking through social media ROI, a common thread was woven across the tapestry of topics. And, when boiled down, the most important takeaway for me from everyone in the room was this: humans matter most.

In marketing.
In storytelling.
In channel planning.
In brand and social media ROI.
Yep, humans.
They’re the best.

Seems pretty commonsensical, right? That people matter more than platforms. More than analytical tools. More than data and insights. More than anything. But your brain would boggle and your head spin at the amount of times I’ve been called into a meeting and been told to “prove the worth” of Facebook as a line-item on a community or direct marketing campaign pitch. You’d fall out of your chair in shock (or maybe not) at how often I still get asked about whether audience should go before channel. Here’s something I can tell you without a single doubt in my mind: ROI is driven through the human condition. All of it.

AUDIENCE. FIRST. ALWAYS.

Let’s taking a quick walk down memory lane, shall we? I remember the first time I was hauled into a senior manager’s office to sit next to the CEO and CFO and talk social ROI. The exec knew that that new ” social communication channels” were lining up to be the new next-best-thing, but weren’t sure how these emerging channels would slot into the existing marketing mix. Fair enough to ask the hard questions as bean counters. But, at 25yrs old I wasn’t quite as well versed in the language of cash-flow and P&L ledgers as I am now to be able to have eloquently answered the questions put to me as I could now. In fact, my attempts at speaking ‘marketing talk’ to digital people, and vice versa, were fumbling at best. I failed a lot at convincing people of the value of social media, but also kept at it. I kept talking passionately about community and the returns in the long run. From that, I got more and more wins on the board. It was all simple psychology and basic marketing fundamentals – just on new platforms. Right? If only the IPA study about brand building in the long term had been out a decade ago!

The funny thing is this: social media has always just made sense to me. At all junctures. It’s never been strange, other-worldly, or foreign. Maybe because I’m inherently a creative and love learning new ways to share images, or stories, or video. Social has been another avenue (or, more recently, major freeway) on which businesses and individuals were able to tell powerful stories in a more relevant way than perhaps traditional advertising could. In my life, social media has become a passion, a profession, and almost an obsession. From the beginning, social media ROI has always been in relationships – it still is. Before the tracking tools. Before the analytical powerhouse back-ends. Before the ad platforms. Before custom and lookalike audiences. Before all of that, and to this day, I firmly believe that social media ROI is in all of us. It’s in emotion, familiarity, and trust.

So when I say social media is dead, we all know it’s not. It’ll never die. But, it will evolve and change quicker than Beiber’s hairstyle. Social is powerful. It unites us. It divides us. And it earns us the right to speak about things other than just our products. Social media allows brands banter, heart, and voice. Each touch-point, each piece of content, each story is a chance for you and your brand to differentiate and ingratiate yourself to consumers. Put people first, and your ROI will be ever-growing.

Long live social media.
Long live all media.

Social Media Influencers (one kid’s perspective)

On the drive to school this morning, while sipping a hot chocolate & telling me all about Minecraft and why I MUST LEARN TO PLAY, my daughter paused to ask me what I was doing recently at work – &, if she could help with anything.

My first response was a quick internal conversation with myself that went something like: “WHOA! What a cool little cat to ask how work is going. #proudmommamoment” but what came out was “Babe, I’m thinking a lot about social media influencers & the different channels they make an impact across. And, ultimately, how businesses can work with really cool people to share stories & create some fun moments between customers & businesses.”

Her next question? Brilliant. Simple. Pointed. And, necessary.

“Momma, can you define influencer for me, simply, please?” Um, yep! While coming up with an answer though, my mind was buzzing. Here I had, in my vehicle, an engaged 10yr-old keen on working out factors in her mom’s business & why they matter so much. I jumped on this moment & went with it with a keen eye on selfish learning…from a kid.

To answer  her question, I defined an influencer in the simplest way that I could – not because she wouldn’t grasp a longer winded explanation, but because explaining something simply always challenges me to be a better communicator (& because she asked me to keep it short & sweet).

“So, kiddo an influencer is something like this: a person (or people) who have a large, engaged social media following on one more more channels. They might be famous, or not. But, they’re always someone who people like a lot – enough, in fact, that they’ll follow them, share their stories, and trust their opinions.”

Hmmmmmmmm. She sat quietly for a moment. Looked at me, & said “Mom, I have some ideas… would you like to hear them?” Yes my girl, I would. Hit me with your view of the world.

MINECRAFT (had to happen, right? The kid’s 10yrs old)
If you’re going to work wit influencers – then at least one of them needs to be a Minecrafter. Why? Well, because Minecraft is amazing. Mom, did you know that Microsoft bought Minecraft for something like $2.5B US dollars? $2.5 BILLION! Surely if people are good at that, AND they have millions of followers hanging on their every word & move… then they’d be good to have.

They Should Be Funny (and Nice)
This is a good one. Why? It takes us right back to the start about why we like other people. No business objectives or brand synergies needed, just funny, nice people communicating with like-minded individuals. Seems a great place to start & reminds me that kindness really is the only way to be when professional & personal lives interweave. So, if you’re keen to be a social media influencer, Rule #1 must always be this: Don’t be an a$$hole, & be funny & nice.

They Need To Mess Up Sometimes
We all mess up sometimes… but a lot of people online try to pretend they don’t. That’s not fair to most people, right? Because, it makes it seem like some people are perfect. And, they’re not. By making mistakes, we know our favorite YouTubers are really real, just like us. The more we can see ourselves in others, the more we can empathize with them…the more we want to follow them, to share their coolness, & to be like them.

They Also Need To Know Cool Stuff
That means, they need to know stuff that I (the fan) don’t know yet but could share with my friends for added “cool factor.” The more cool stuff they know & share (it doesn’t have to be BIG stuff…just cool stuff), the more we’re going to want to watch their shows & engage with their stories & videos. For kids especially, feeling like we’re learning – but that it’s fun – is really important.

So there you have it. Four pretty spot-on ideas around social media influencers. What makes them popular, engaging, & worth aligning with as a brand or another influencer. From my perspective, I love how kids can grasp concepts so easily & then give unfiltered feedback that makes so much sense once you take your own preconceived notions out of the equation & truly listen to what’s being said.

Beyond all of the social media & influencer stuff, what did I learn from my daughter this morning? First, to just sit back, slow down, & to listen. Most of the time we talk about Pokemon, school plays, sports & friends. Allowing kids to talk & to be heard is just as much a gift for the child as it is for the parent – I for one can attest to that 100%.

Teaching moments are all around, whether with kids, colleagues or friends…embrace & enjoy them. As for my amazing 10yr old & I, I hope our relationship continues like this through time. An easy, two-way conversation about everything & nothing. A love built not just on blood & DNA, but of a foundation of trust, kindness, and safety.

Thanks, social media influencers (and Minecraft) for today’s talk on the way to school. It was a goodie.

The Social Media Un-Guru

My day job is an exiting one. In the course of a day I get to be part storyteller, part creative, part strategist, part marketing geek, part student, and part teacher.

Because my role is focused on the complicated world of social media as a whole, I’m most often defined as “our social guru”. The best part about being “our social guru” at work is that people are happy to claim me out loud – which makes my nerd heart very happy.

I love learning non-stop about how people act and interact online in a social space, but I’m no guru in any sense traditional or new-age.  I’m a storyteller, a connector, a passionate lover of human psychology, and a person fascinated by people. I love finding out what sets in stone and proliferates bias in a community. I also find great pleasure in cracking into deep-data-dives which make my head spin with insights and ideas to help businesses and individuals connect on a real, old-fashioned level (even though the connection mechanic is new).

But, a guru I am not. Not a fully fledged one anyhow.

To start at the definition of the work, guru is a noun which means “teacher” in Sanskrit. As a noun it means the imparter of knowledge. On these accounts I could say, yep, I’m a bit of a guru. Teaching others and expanding their knowledge base is the most important thing any of us can do, so in this sense I draw much joy from being a guru in the traditional sense. And, I try to teach someone something new each day – as well as push myself to learn constantly and let others teach me!

That said, I’m not teaching in a world of traditional Sanskrit and glorious gurus – in fact, in a modern, western digital society the term “social media guru” has a beaty-chesty connotation to it. Braggadocious even. And that’s because, in the short history of social media, many self-styled gurus turned out to be little more than modern day charlatans pulling the wool and promising the moon (branding social media the silver bullet of cheap marketing success) while charging out the ears.

In fact, these self-styled gurus have done more harm than good for social media realists like myself. Their vocabulary is non-definitive and their promises empty. But, luckily, most savvy businesses with solid social strategies are leaving these old-school gurus behind and searching out people who can tell amazing (genuine) stories in real-time while also demonstrating a discernible return on investment.

I like to think of the people above – myself included – as revolutionists of thought and creativity. To me, we are today’s mass-market storytellers focused on the individuals we are selling to as just that, individuals. Targeted advertising and creative means we say the right thing at the right time and we teach others (even our competitors) by showing what we are about. And, hopefully, offering value to each person as we interact with them.

I like to call us “Social Media Un-gurus”. I could write for years on the attributes of un-gurus – but I think most of what I’d say would be pretty commonsensical. To get people to connect, you need to care and work on an even and genuine playing field. Sharing insights, passion, and technology will keep us all connected. And it’ll be those un-gurus who change with the times and experiment that rise to the top.

 

social-media-gurus

 

 

Traditional PR is dead, long live traditional PR!

PR trad

Before I jump into things with this post (and jump, I will), let me start by defining what I mean by “traditional PR” just to be clear.

To me, when I think about traditional PR, I picture old men in suits wooing journalists and shouting to mass media markets about how amazing their latest story is and why it’s important to everyone. Traditional PR engenders a push economy approach to communication. In today’s world, we often call one-way information “spin.” Because there’s nothing better than well produced prose, and there’s nothing worse than not being able to be heard, too, when it comes to feeding back.

Whether you call it PR, propaganda, or simply proselytizing, humans and corporations have always sought to grow the positive sentiment around themselves or their offerings. Born out of necessity – and out of simple, human communication and the desire to be liked and popular, PR, with the invent of new technologies and channels is changing. For the better.

PR professionals have traditionally spent a lot of time cultivating relationships with journalists and other members of the mass media. But this dynamic is changing. Fast.

In an age where the public have access to a wealth of information beyond comprehension, and the ability to create stories 24/7/365 – ABOUT ANYTHING & EVERYTHING (from brands to breaking news), it’s not the mass media that holds all of the power anymore over persuading the public one way or another. It’s the little guy with the smartphone who’s got a good idea and a strong opinion – not to mention a large group of engaged followers.

In fact, I assert that it’s actually niche thought leaders & digital natives who understand their audiences, and the channels in which they’re publishing who are truly are heard amongst the din of advertorial, advertising, and soft syrupy spin – AKA press releases that can be both exciting (for the company involved) and yawn-inducing (for the public) at the same time. Two-way conversations and multi-channel communication is the key to keeping people involved and engaged.

Today’s digital natives know where, when, and how to talk to their extremely targeted and already engaged audiences because, for the most part, they are already an integral part of the communities they are influencing. And we all know that we listen more intently to “one of us” over “one of them”.

Thus, most modern digital audiences don’t need convincing – or propaganda to make up their minds about something. They need businesses that understand them like a local, and engage with them where and how they want to engage. They’re willing to read more, to interact more, and to share the information they’ve found more because they have a genuine interest in what they’re reading or interacting with.PR after

I believe that today’s digital wizards are effecting the most change in society. Think about it, they inherently understand their audience so persuasion takes a backseat to passion. And people love passion. They’re moved by it, and they want to find it for themselves. So they follow those who seem genuine and interesting.

Journalists of big papers and media outlets the world over used to wait for a scoop. They’d be sent a press release and write a story in the paper about it. But in today’s world, the smart journalists trawl through social media, blogs, and content streams daily and often reach out to members of the public to source stories as they happen.

This, in turn, has created a new breed of accidental journalists and publishers. All with their own followers – and who now are known as influencers in their own right.

In a world which was once a one-sided “push” when it came to information, today’s two-sided, conversational digital world means that traditional PR is well, and truly, 6 feet under and pushing up daisies. It’s the new-age PR pros that will rise and succeed. And, brands that hire these new-age pros will be the ones who flourish.

So, while traditional publishers still have a say, they just don’t have the last word – or even the first anymore.

Traditional PR is dead, long live traditional PR.

Gratefully aware

Sometimes I find myself rolling my eyes at my computer screen. Okay, not just sometimes…often. I’m constantly shocked by how openly people complain/moan/whine/whinge online – about such trivial, boring things. I wonder, quite often, if these openly morose social media souls are like this in real life. And I hope they’re not. Because, my god they’d be insufferable!

What is it in today’s culture that makes people think that the world owes them anything? That waking up healthy and free isn’t the best gift of all – and that everything else you have is just icing on the cake? People who can’t see just how much they’ve got really get to me. Especially the ones with healthy kids, a roof over their heads, food in the fridge, and jobs they are able to go to and work hard at to earn a living.

Seriously…what’s with the negative nellies? What has changed in the age of technology and ADD/TMI Online sharing that make lots of folks think that the rest of their social world want to hear all of their complaints with the world? When did self-editing become extinct?

Thanks to the beauty of cyberspace, over the past three months I’ve been shaping my social media world to suit my own outlook on life. The boo-hooers and serial complainers are gone. Erased from all of my timelines and replaced by the folks who see silver linings in even the most ominous of rain clouds. I’d be lying if I said that having a positive place to visit online hasn’t made me an even happier person, because it has.

Practicing thoughtfulness when it comes positivity is worth the time it takes to wash your hands of friends online who only bring you down. That said, I’m not some heartless being who doesn’t believe there’s always room for true sadness and anger – real emotions – online. Of course people are allowed to share their lives honestly without fear of getting the social “chop”. But all of those repeat offenders of negativity are gone from my world – by choice. I choose the people who make my heart smile.

Go on, take 30 minutes. Clean out your timelines, your friends lists, and own your social media experience.

You’ll thank yourself.