Blogger Compensation: What’s Right For You?

If your social media team is working with influencers locally, regionally or nationally, it’s likely that the topic of compensation has come up.  As more and more brands work with influencers, the discussions are becoming more tangled.  Some of the questions I’ve heard from PR practitioners at recent conferences go something like this. Should they be paid?  Should you treat them like journalists?  Can you offer unique or custom experiences in exchange for their social output?  What can you require them to do?  What should you be required to do? How do I explain this to my boss? Here are some typical blogger/brand models that we’ve seen and how they might work for brands and bloggers.

The Advertising Model

In this model, bloggers get revenue through paid ad words campaigns or affiliate marketing. Amazon is the best example of this model but there are many popular to bloggers including BlogHer, AdThrive,The Blogger Network and Ad Sense. This story from Elayna Fernandez, The Positive Mom, talks to bloggers specifically about making money from blogs.  Below is  an example of affiliate marketing from Tori Foster Johnson of The SToriBook.

Example of how bloggers use affiliate links and promo codes

 

Sponsor Model

In this type, bloggers (or other influencers) are approached by a brand with a request to create content for a blog post or other social network.  The brand offers a fee based on the request and the exchange is not unlike a freelance writing agreement. It may include deadlines, word count, hashtags or links and may be on the brands’ networks or the individuals or both.  Examples of this type are easy to find and are most popular with consumer products, particularly those appealing to families. Below is a sample of a sponsored post from Colleen Pence at San Antonio Mom Blogs.

Example of a Sponsored Post on a blog

 

Consultant Model

 In this model, bloggers are approaching brands that they are interested in and offering or negotiating a contract or consultation which could include identifying and approaching other influencers and working as a go-between for the brand and the bloggers to a mutual end. Similar to hiring a subject matter expert or celebrity and usually involves a specific timeline or project. Many in this model have media or communications backgrounds so they can be quite sophisticated but others bring only enthusiasm for the project or the brand.

Fam Tour Model

This capitalizes on the brand’s need or requirement to NOT pay for coverage and the bloggers need to develop great content for their networks.  It also plays into the bloggers desire to develop content for growing audiences to build their network. It is dependent on the individual passions of the bloggers and the reputation of the individual brands.  There is also a certain amount of prestige to working with a specific brand. For this model to work, the value proposition needs to be high for the blogger – the brand must offer something great! This model is often used in the hospitality industry and by destination management organizations as it aligns with how they work with travel writers.

Scarcity ModelBadge from a Disney Moms program

The brand in this model creates a competition to create alignment with bloggers and to build attendance. The brand identifies and approaches bloggers but creates a competitive environment to draw in the best candidates.  And the brand often charges a nominal rate to recoup the expenses incurred from hosting them on the trip or experience. These usually have large WOW factors! The SeaWorld of Texas AdventureCon program is in this category and so is the Disney Moms program.

The Passion Model

In this model, the brand or cause reaches out to bloggers based on their personal convictions –bloggers participate because of their personal beliefs. Local causes leverage the fact that bloggers want to contribute in their communities and are vocal when doing so. The project that Step In Communication managed for Cardboard Kids falls in this category.

Using bloggers and other social influencers as part of overall marketing goals is evolving. And there is no ONE way for bloggers and brands to work together. With so many models out there, it’s no wonder that some marketing and PR teams are confused. What models have you seen? How are they working? Share your examples here.

 

How To Handle Negative and Irrelevant Comments on Facebook

Image of keyboard with finger on delete Should you ever hide Facebook posts?

When you are managing Facebook pages, it is likely you will have to answer this question. In the process of managing Facebook pages for numerous organizations, this is a common occurrence. Some comments should be ignored. Some comments deserve a response. Others should be hidden or deleted.  What should you do? Here are four comment types from my channel management experience and potential actions you can take to handle on your company pages.

Comment Type Number 1: Negative

This type of comment is critical or negative but is relevant to the reputation of the organization. It may involve an unhappy customer or a comment about a policy or process of the company. For this type of comment, it’s important to do three things, verify, escalate, resolve.

First, verify that the comment comes from a real person or real organization by clicking through to the commenters’ Facebook profile.  If it appears real, the next step would be to escalate to your client or internal management team to develop an answer.  Finally, create and post the response.

Comment Type Number 2: Irrelevant

This type of comment is also critical of the organization but is different in that it is irrelevant to the post.  This requires a more subtle answer.  If you respond too quickly or with a formal statement, you might uncover a bully or troll waiting to engage.  Monitoring additional comments for a few hours is the first line of defense. If you have loyal and engaged fans on that page, they might chime in and redirect the conversation.

If that doesn’t happen, hide the comment — only the commenter and their friends see it. We once hid a comment from somebody’s mom who made a favorable comment about her daughter’s photo appearing there and then kept asking where all the “other people” were coming from.  She was clearly new to Facebook, so we hid it to keep the embarrassment to a minimum.

To consider deleting the post or comment takes a little more time and thought.  If it’s a “drive-by” commenter that may or may not return, we sometimes wait 48-72 hours and if no further action comes from this type of commenter, we then consider deleting it.

Comment Type Number 3: Unreasonable

This type of comment is often rude and inflamed. It might go right up to the brink of Comment Type Number 4 below. In this scenario, we spend extra time monitoring the post and other comments on it to see the progression of the conversation. There are three different actions you can take:  hide the comment, delete the post and ban the user. The strategy leading up to the actions on this type of comment are similar to that for irrelevant comments.

Comment Type Number 4: Violates Policy

Whether it’s a violation of Facebook’s terms of service or a violation of YOUR social media policy, this type of comment includes name-calling or swearing. It can also be a post in which another person or page tries to sell something on your page. This is unacceptable for many company pages and should be deleted.  If the post or comment has gotten widespread views before it’s been deleted, it might merit an explanation about why it was removed. This will enhance the company’s engagement and integrity with  fans, but if it’s disgusting or pornographic, no explanation should be necessary and deleting and banning the user makes the channel managers’ job easier as these types of posters tend to be repeat offenders.

Smart channel managers know that managing your Facebook community includes making judgement calls on how to respond to comments by a wide variety of fans.  Next time you get a comment that is critical, irrelevant, unreasonable or is a clear violation of policy, try these ideas.  Let us know how it worked by leaving a comment.

 

Why You Should Wait to Post To Your Social Media Channels

Graphic showing clock We get really excited when we have timely content for our social media channels.  So excited that we often shoot ourselves in the foot by trying to get it all out there at once.  As communicators, we are as trained to follow the news cycle as Pavlov’s dogs were trained to respond to the sound of the bell.  The problem is-there’s more than one bell.  The news cycle is less defined than it was ten years ago and is no longer confined to set appointment times.

We used to try to capitalize on the morning paper, the evening news, the late news and then the monthly magazine.  Now we have 24 hours and we should take advantage of that extended time to spread out our social media messaging in our channels.

So why are we trying to time the press release, the in-person event and the social media posts all at the same time? Out of sheer habit?

With a little planning, your social media channels can have more frequent messages to cover that 24-hour cycle, only in smaller chunks. This way they can carry your news in different ways over a prolonged period of time.

What are the advantages of this approach?  You have multiple opportunities to engage with your community and the repetition of the messages – or at least the repetition of the theme of the messages – will likely translate into higher engagement. You might also realize better retention by your fans and followers and your message has higher potential rise above the clutter in those channels.

There is a downside to this and it’s focused on the social media channel manager.  This forces social media managers to plan content frequency and channel choice, so if you’re not a good planner, it won’t work for you.

Let’s say you have an event coming up. Here’s how you might extend the life of your content by waiting to post elements of the event.

 

Date Channel

What To Post

Day Before Event

FB or TW

We’re getting ready for X. Will we see you there?

Day of Event

FB TW or IG

Photo of getting ready for the event; expression of excitement for festivities.

During Event

FB TW or IG

Event coverage; frequency depends on size of event and fan base.

Later that Day OR Next Day

FB TW

More scenes from event and/or photo collection

Next 2-3 days

FB TW

Share media coverage of event; share what fans are saying/showing about event. Share what partners did during event

One Week Later

FB TW

Share video produced from event? Positive community action that happened due to your event.

Another advantage to this approach is that you will fight the time decay on your channels and most likely reach a larger cross section of your fans and followers.  If your stories are spaced right and have a conversational tone, then the repetition will not be recognized as such and it will appear that you are telling the diverse elements of a bigger story.

This approach could become increasingly valuable for company page managers as Facebook continues to tweak its newsfeed toward personal pages and away from company updates. Twitter already favors repeating message themes.

So next time you have big news to share in your social channels, why not spread it out and see how it enhances engagement with your audience?

How to Find Content for Social Media

A graphic wheel showing an annual report and the types of content you can extract from it. Finding content is a struggle for many of my clients. Even with a well-developed brand and strong marketing campaigns, many organizations have a tough time filling the spaces of their social media networks with content. Content is right under our noses if we know how to look for it.

“I just don’t know what to say,” is a phrase I hear repeatedly. That’s a sign that you’re overthinking the concept of content. It’s not like writing a brochure or a press release, although both are great sources of content for social networks. If it’s important enough to include in your organization’s brochure, you can bet some — or all of it — should find its way into your digital profiles too.

If the brochure provides the big picture, or the macro view of your company, then content is the micro view, or the small, up-close nuggets that bring the big picture to life.

There’s nothing more traditional and all-encompassing than the annual report. A good annual report gives a complete picture of a year in the life of an organization. It might be mailed, or shared online or both. It’s the macro view. And it’s the perfect place to start mining for those content nuggets for social media, or the micro view.

Here’s a brief example using elements from the annual report from ChildSafe, a Child Advocacy nonprofit in San Antonio, Texas. What could you pull from this annual report? Here’s a list:

  •  Statistics about children assisted by the organization
  • Information about this community issue
  • Event photos
  • Volunteer recognition
  • Call for new volunteers
  • Donor recognition
  • Call for new donors
  • Ways for donors to give
  • Highlight programs funded by donors
  • Information about education and training
  • Efforts of community partners
  • Key staff and their roles
  • Board Members and their roles
  • Fundraising opportunities

 

Content is right under our noses if we know how to look for it. Just like the expression “can’t see the forest for the trees.” Lots of individual trees make up the forest, just like lots of pieces of content make up the story of an organization.

Facebook Reaches out to SMB with “Fit”

Fran at the FB Fit SeminarSmall businesses are getting extra attention from Facebook these days. As the social network moves its users to a new blend of organic and paid content, Facebook users are becoming exposed to higher levels of paid advertising.

Individual users are unsure about how much advertising they want to see in the network. Businesses want to know more about using Facebook for advertising, but they have tons of questions. How does it work? How much should I spend? How do I measure success? Where do I get help?

These are all questions I get regularly from my clients; the result is that I conducted some very small experiments with Facebook ads, which you can see here and here .

The challenLight up question mark photoge for small businesses is that they already feel like they are wearing so many hats they do not feel capable of exploring or learning about one more thing.

Facebook is making an attempt to change that with its Facebook Fit program. This is a “road show” of seminars by Facebook itself. Earlier this summer, I attended a seminar in Austin that was geared to helping small businesses navigate advertising options and hear from similarly sized businesses on how they are using Facebook advertising.

The afternoon included a panel of small businesses who have successfully used Facebook advertising. The panel included the owner of a local restaurant and food truck; a local retail store with a robust e-commerce platform; a national jewelry brand; and a company with niche products for outdoors.

The method by which each of these businesses got involved in Facebook advertising ran the gamut. The restaurant owner started with a budget of 5 cents per day. Yes, cents. The national jewelry brand and the local retail store, on the other hand, had an integrated marketing budget and they slowly carved out dollars for Facebook advertising, based on their success with organic content, fan contributions and other factors.

They all seemed genuine. They all were realizing success with their marketing campaigns. They all believed in the benefits of Facebook advertising. Sure, Facebook invited them to the party and (by now) has a vested interest in their success.

As a group, though, their message was very clear.

Everyone on the business panel started out small. They tested. They learned from the tests. Then tried something new. They carved out budget for the ads. While the restaurant owner was spending $15 per month on ads, the retail store with the e-commerce platform was spending $500 a month once they integrated Facebook into their marketing campaign. It’s a smart approach.

Facebook claims that online ads have a 38% success rate, while ads on Facebook reach 89% success rate. This is not verified information, but is the benchmark they offered at the seminar.

How can you take advantage of this information so your business can begin exploring advertising on Facebook? There are a LOT of new features available to advertisers, some of which I have not yet tried, but will be testing in the coming weeks and months. Here is a rundown of some things available to small businesses.

Boosted Posts

This is where you take organic content and apply advertising dollars to it. You can target demographic and psychographic information, and the ad returns some good data when the “boost” money runs out.

Page Like Ads

Usually shows in the newsfeed, and users can rotate images seen and use same targeting as the boosted post. Also returns some good data.

Website Ad

Runs in the right-hand column and NOT in the newsfeed. Don’t have to have a Facebook page to link to it. You do have to be on Facebook to do Page Like Ads and Boosted Posts.

Conversion Measurement

This is newer than the ad types listed above, but allows you to track conversions (based on YOUR choices) after people view your ad. You set up the conversion pixel when you create the ad and it follows the visitor on the Web.

Lookalike Audience

Exactly as it sounds. You target your advertising based on page fans, website visitors or a database (see next section). Haven’t tried this yet, so I can’t offer any results.

Custom Audience

This option (in my mind) is troublesome. Here’s why. You take an existing list, like your email newsletter list, and upload it Facebook’s Power Editor feature. You can exclude current customers, target those “like” your current customers and other features. Facebook claims that it can’t actually see or reuse the lists you upload, but data security is a hot topic these days so I would have a lot of questions before I tried to use this feature.

There are many more features in the pipeline, including better mobile choices and better interface with applications.With Facebook Fit, the network is trying to be more responsive to small businesses. By their own admission, there are more than 30 million small businesses on their network, so it’s about time. They’ve even located their Small Business Division in Austin, which might mean more outreach opportunities.

I plan to test a new series of Page Like Ads and maybe even a lookalike audience and track conversions this fall. I would love to hear what you are trying on this network.

Dog Days of Social Media: How to Survive a Summer Slump

A dog laying on his side Summer is in full swing and chances are, your fans and followers are not as engaged as they were a month or so ago. What’s a social media manager to do? In the midst of the dog days of summer, keep your channels humming by trying these 4 ideas.

Lighten Up

Change up the types of stories you are sharing in your channels. Think of it like you’re giving your content a mental vacation too. Link the season to your content and hold off on things like research or weightier stories until it’s time for “back to school.”

Time-Shift

Think about how YOUR summer schedule changes and now envision how it might change for your social network. Maybe it’s time to experiment with frequency and timing of your posts and stories. For one of my pages, all posts are scheduled in the evenings this time of year. For another, we consciously schedule timely posts on weekend mornings, when people are waking up, drinking coffee and planning their activities.

Try Something New

Since fewer fans are on your channels in the summer, now might be the time to experiment with something new or test a new approach that you can spend more time developing in the fall.

Plan Ahead

If you’re not already using an editorial calendar, now is a great time to start. Think ahead to September and start planning and entire 3 months’ worth of stories and posts now.

Trying at least one of these approaches will keep your social channels from a summer slump and ease you right into a productive September. Got any ideas on what you can try on your channels? Share them in the comments.

Do Your Social Media Housekeeping

Dustpan ready to clean up your social channels The year is half over and as I approach the end of the second quarter,  I look at all the social media channels I’m managing for a variety of brands and take a moment to do some housekeeping on each one.

It’s an easy step to forget. If you focus on developing content for your clients, like I do, housekeeping for your social channels never gets priority. Here is a checklist of 12 things I’ll be doing this month in my networks that you can use, too.

1. Update cover photos
2. Check and update all profile photos
3. Update lists, categories and groups
4. Answer/resolve any pending private messages
5. Update all descriptions
6. Check that all links in descriptions are working
7. Add new followers into relevant lists
8. Create or retire lists
9. Do follow-backs on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram
10. Organize and file content and assets you need to find later
11. Add or remove page administrators
12. Check and update settings

There are probably more that you’ve already thought of doing on your channels. What are your necessary housekeeping tasks for social media channels? Comments welcome.

Cardboard Kids Reach Those Who Need It

My Cardboard Kid. I named her EmmaLast month, I participated on a citywide effort to bring greater awareness to the problem of child abuse in our community. It was called Cardboard Kids. On April 3, two-foot-high cardboard cutouts similar to a “flat Stanley” appeared all over San Antonio and the surrounding areas. 5846 of them – one to represent each confirmed child victim of abuse or neglect in Bexar County last year – were decorated in all shapes and styles and appeared in government offices, grocery stores, businesses, yards, schools, and hospitals. All had a name tag on the front and an explanation on the back.

We wanted people who saw a Cardboard Kid to do these things: read what it was about on the back, take a picture with it and share it with the hashtag #cardboardkidssa. We had some ambitious ideas about what might happen on April 3, but we naturally had a lot of questions. Would people see them? Would they visit the web site? Would they take a picture and use the hashtag?

There were many elements to this campaign, but the social media elements were focused in four areas.

First, we reached out to influential San Antonio bloggers and asked them to help spread the word. To assist in that effort, we invited them to a coffee hour with the ChildSafe team to hear about the problem of abuse in our community and how we thought Cardboard Kids could create greater awareness of the problem. We also developed a content package for them to share easily in their preferred social channels.

The second element of our campaign was a content strategy for ChildSafe’s existing social media channels.Screen Grab of our Thunderclap campaign

Third, we communicated frequently with the organizations and individuals who had been decorating many of the Cardboard Kids in the previous months.

Finally, we used the social media amplification service Thunderclap and organized 100 influencers to “donate” a Tweet or Facebook post to be released on the morning of April 3. (thunderclap screen grab)

We laid a strong foundation for this effort in the weeks before the event, but the real magic happens when the campaign takes on a life of its own. The connections we made through social media helped to make that happen. In fact, two of the bloggers – Colleen Pence and Stacy Teet – curated an online magazine using Flipboard to put all the photos in one place.

View my Flipboard Magazine.

We are still analyzing the impact of this campaign, using Zoetica Media’s Framework for Social Media Measurement, but here’s the preliminary impact of the Cardboard Kids campaign:

  • Tripled the activity on ChildSafe’s social media channels in the 15 day period
  • 952 Tweets from 525 contributors created an estimated 1.34 mm impressions on Twitter
  • Facebook reach increased by 40%; fans increased by 30%
  • More than 2,700 unique visitors to the dedicated Cardboard Kids microsite. It was the number one landing page during the 15 day period
  • 100 Thunderclap participants created 140,000 social impressions
  • 1400 photos with hashtags appeared on Instagram; more than 100 photos per hour were uploaded to this channel on April 3.

The ChildSafe team believes that awareness of their cause has never been higher, due at least in part to the addition of Cardboard Kids to their already-jam packed activity level during Child Abuse Awareness Month.

What is truly significant is that the number of “walk-in” cases arriving at ChildSafe this April is eight times higher than the number of walk-ins from a year ago. (39 in April 2014; 5 in April 2013). While the individual social channels were important to this cause, the most important takeaway is that we’re starting to reach the people who need our help the most.

Your Social Strategy OR ‘Why Am I Doing This?’

Fran Stephenson doing a radio interview at the Solo PR Summit At the SoloPR Summit in Atlanta, I had the opportunity to talk with Brent Smith and Casey Colclough about Social Strategy for their Business In the Morning Podcast.

They had some interesting questions about the ROI of social media, channel selection for B2B versus B2C clients, and what to do with an abandoned Facebook page. Also, I got to chat about the why of your social strategy, which is perhaps the most important question of all. You can listen to the full interview here.

Do Facebook Ads Work for Microbrands?

Part 2 of the $100 Facebook Ad Experiment

Last week I wrote about how Facebook is pushing Brand Pages into advertising in order to preserve their reach to fans.  And I gave an example of the first ad I tested for a client.

The post I tested for my client, Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, was really successful because they have an enthusiastic fan base and always offer compelling images of their animals. It’s not uncommon for 30 percent (or more) of their fans to see and interact with a cute animal post.

Since not every page has such high engagement, I decided to test the ad platform further on two pages which are relatively new and have much smaller numbers. And my budget was $100. Here’s what I found.

Solar Texas

Screen capture of Solar Texas Facebook Ad testThis small business in San Antonio is relatively new to Facebook and experimenting with reaching customers there. The owner has a good sense of who purchases his products, so was able to target that demographic when boosting posts. Over two weeks, we boosted 3 posts for $15 each. Before we started the experiment, he had 60 fans on his FB page and his posts were seen by 15-25 people per post. The advertised posts had thousands of views, dozens of clicks on the photos and some shares, too. He gained 12 new page likes – a 16 percent increase — in two weeks.

Why did it work?  Solar Texas has a reasonable idea about its customers. This will help target any type of advertising in the future, whether on Facebook or another platform. Also, the images were very aspirational, which probably enhanced their reach. But the results are small, so further testing on this platform might be a better indication of future success.

St. Francis Renaissance Faire

Screen capture of results of Renaissance Faire adThis is a one-day special event run by a local church.  Their Facebook page was less than a month old and it was a month until the actual event. The event organizers have a vague idea of their audience, and are hoping to grow the size of the event each year. Over two weeks’ time, we boosted three posts totaling $35 showing different features of the one-day event. Prior to our test, this page had 60 fans and a typical post was seen by 20-30. The advertising had huge reach — as high as 2300 on one ad. With each boosted post, additional clicks on the image were seen. But only one new page like came from the advertising.

Why didn’t it work? This event was so new that they were not well established on Facebook and in spite of changing the ad targets for each post, it didn’t enhance page growth or engagement. The images shown were from past fairs, which may have had an impact. By adjusting the demographics for each post, we were able to increase photo click-throughs. With further testing, we might have found the audience “sweet spot” before the event.

Was Our Test Successful?

Over the course of a month, with a budget of $100, we boosted posts for three different brand pages. The first, Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch’s Giraffe Bomb photo, had widespread appeal and delivered high engagement and new fans to the page. The second, a series of three posts for Solar Texas, also had widespread appeal and delivered some new fans to the page. The third, for the St. Francis Renaissance Faire, got wide views but had little page impact.

While this is a small test, it shows that a well-established brand page like Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch can benefit from adding Facebook advertising into its overall strategy. What is less clear is if that same opportunity exists for smaller brands. The Solar Texas page had more growth than the Renaissance Faire page, but there may be other factors which need to be resolved for these pages to increase their success. Targeting the right audience, having great photos and the timing and frequency of page posts all contribute to the success of brand pages on Facebook.

Have you been testing ads on Facebook for really small brands? What have you found to be successful?